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Comparing Facets of Divergent Thinking in Engineering Freshmen and Upperclassmen

[+] Author Affiliations
Caleb Bennetts, Avery Cheeley, Benjamin W. Caldwell, Matthew G. Green

LeTourneau University, Longview, TX

Paper No. DETC2017-67604, pp. V007T06A006; 8 pages
  • ASME 2017 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 7: 29th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology
  • Cleveland, Ohio, USA, August 6–9, 2017
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5821-9
  • Copyright © 2017 by ASME


This paper studies how engineering education might change divergent thinking skills. We hypothesized that people use a higher amount of divergent thinking when a task is unfamiliar. Our previous work developed an online survey to measure divergent ideation in two ways: with one ideation task, equally familiar to both novice and experienced designers, and a second ideation task, familiar only to experienced designers. We sorted ideas from 40 engineering upperclassmen and 40 freshmen into hierarchical categories and scored fluency, flexibility, and originality. The results did not confirm our hypothesis; rather, we found that originality scores were not significantly different between freshman and upperclassmen. Additionally, both groups produced their most-original ideas in the generally-familiar ideation task.

Limitations in our methods prevented meaningful conclusions about flexibility, and further study will be necessary to confirm our other conclusions. To better explore factors influencing divergent thinking, we will refine our methods for future work and retest the participants from the freshmen group in a longitudinal study.

Copyright © 2017 by ASME



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