Developing creative engineers: a design approach to engineering education
Editor: Clarke, A, Ion, W, McMahon, C and Hogarth, P
Author: de Vere, Ian
Despite an increase in calls for reform of engineering education, engineering faculties continue to focus somewhat narrowly on the science of engineering, without sufficient curriculum opportunities for students to develop either design skills, or creative methodology. Design is fundamental to engineering practice, and therefore should be a motivating factor in engineering learning. Without focussing on design activities and creativity, we will continue to graduate engineers who are competent technically, but not prepared for the practice of engineering nor the challenges of the 21st century. A cultural change is warranted in engineering, as is reform of the established theory-based curricula; currently there is little emphasis on experiential learning through design or the development of creativity. By contrast, design pedagogy fosters creativity by developing and nurturing problem solving skills and providing regular opportunities for students to refine these skills through experiential project-based learning. Creative activities such as 'reflection in action', problem framing, divergent thinking and open-ended problem solving are integral to the designer's education, but are notably absent from engineering curricula. Yet creativity is central to innovative problem solving and as such should be integral to the education of engineering designers. To be creative, engineers must desire uniqueness, accept unusual ideas, tolerate the unconventional and seek unexpected implications. In this regard, the engineering community can benefit from close observation of design pedagogy. The Product Design Engineering paradigm with its integration of engineering and design curricula seeks to develop creative engineers through the utilisation of design educational processes in an engineering learning context.