Unit 2: Pedagogical Techniques to Design a Creative Engineering Classroom


Learning Objectives

By the end of this unit, you should be able to identify pedagogical techniques that will improve the creativity of your engineering students

  • You should understand different pedagogical techniques that foster creative engineering
  • You will be able to identify the benefits of collaborations in an engineering classroom
  • You will learn why traditional teaching methods do not foster creativity
  • You will read articles focused on creative engineering pedagogical methods
  • You will further develop your course-long activity using what you have learned during this unit

Articles for this Unit

File:On Creating Creative Engineers.pdf

File:Creative-Thinking-Skills-Approach Through Problem-Based Learning.pdf

Critical thinking and problem-solving

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"We-engineering professors-are in the business of producing engineers. It would seem our responsibility, and also in out best interest, to produce some creative ones-or least not to extinguish the sparks of creativity our students bring with them. We are not doing too well at this, however. Despite all that has been written and said about problem solving and critical thinking, most engineering schools are still going about business as usual, relying on the traditional lecture-homework-quiz format of well defined problems and single correct answers. Unfortunately, while efficient, this format has never been shown to be effective as producing the critical, innovative thinking skills needed to solve difficult technological problems" (Felder, 1987, p. 222).

Felder makes it clear that many schools are not fostering creativity in their engineering programs. The traditional lecture-homework-quiz format is something used by countless teachers. While effective at getting students to memorize and repeat the answers on tests, it does not help students improve their critical thinking skills. Critical thinking as the base of all creative engineering.

Therefore, how do you effectively incorporate critical thinking into your classroom?

Please read this article: File:On Creating Creative Engineers.pdf. Felder provides a great overview of how to implement creative pedagogical techniques into the engineering classroom and the students reactions to it.

There has been an extensive amount of research on creativity in the classroom. Not only can a creative classroom be great for student engagement, it also helps improve a student's problem-solving skills. This is the key aspect of creative engineering. Problem-solving is something every engineer needs in order to be successful. However, the traditional curriculum of lecture-homework-quiz does not allow students to improve their problem-solving skills. It is not uncommon for students to forget what they memorize after they finish a test.

Learning through problem-based learning

Please read this article: File:Creative-Thinking-Skills-Approach Through Problem-Based Learning.pdf. It will be beneficial, especial if you are new to problem-based learning.

Engineers are always problem-solving. Therefore it makes sense if engineer students learn through problem-solving. This is where problem-based learning comes into play. Problem-based learning (or PBL) is a form of education where students are searching for answers/knowledge from prompted problems.

"Through Problem-based learning (PBL), students use 'triggers' from the problem case or scenario to define their own learning objectives. Subsequently they do independent, self directed learning before returning to the group to discuss and refine their acquired knowledge. Thus, PBL is not only about problem solving, but rather it uses appropriate problems to increase knowledge and understanding." (Awang, 2008, p. 334)

Essentially, PBL is allows students to identify what their problem is, learn/research applicable information, and develop an answer/solution to their problem based on what they learned. This allows the student to look for their own way to solve the problem. This form of learning will be a great benefit to a student's creative engineering potential. Awang also mentions students learning through PBL in groups. This is another excellent aspect of creative engineering learning. Collaborative student learning is something many PBL curriculums incorporate in order to enhance the students' learn/research process. By giving students a group of their peers to research and learn with, they will be able to cover the problem from far more different angles. They will have the capability to divide their work, each could specialize researching in a certain field, discuss and build upon their ideas, and they can accumulate a far more extensive amount of knowledge then if they worked solo. Watch the below video for a great explanation of problem based learning.

Throughout the entire problem-based learning process, students are critically thinking about how they want to tackle their problem, developing researching and development skills, and better understanding how they can approach problems from multiple different angles. Add that to students working as a group and they will be able to deepen their knowledge much more. This may sound familiar as it is a similar tactic real-world engineers use everyday. They have to identify their problem. Do research and learn about how to resolve their problem. Engineers look for multiple ways to approach their problem; and they often do this in groups. A big part of a creative engineering curriculum is modelling it after real-world engineers. I highly recommend reading Awang's article about PBL. It is a great resource to further your understanding on the topic.

File:Creative-Thinking-Skills-Approach Through Problem-Based Learning.pdf

Implementing PBL/creative engineering into your classroom

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The goal of this unit was to help you understand how students an improve their creative potential through different pedagogical techniques like PBL. While there are many different styles of education that have the potential to achieve this, problem-based learning is one of the most effective. However, I do encourage you to do your own research on different pedagogical techniques.

Continuing the activity from the first unit, think about how PBL, critical thinking, collaborations, etc... could help improve the things you wrote down previously. Consider the questions below and write down your answers.


  • Identify where you could implement problem-based learning into your classroom?
  • How could problem-based learning increase the creativity/critical thinking of your engineering classroom?
  • Identify how you could incorporate student collaborations into your curriculum?
  • How would collaborations improve your classroom creativity and critical thinking?
  • Have you identified any other pedagogical techniques that could be incorporated into your classroom?
  • How could they increase creativity/critical thinking in your class?

After completing this short written assignment, review what you wrote. You are beginning to identify important aspects of instructional design. As you continue this activity in following units, you will begin to shape what your creative engineering curriculum will look like. In the next unit, you will be looking at different strategies you can use for implementing these different pedagogical techniques into your engineering discipline.

Unit Review

  • There are many different pedagogical techniques that can be used to improve students' creative engineering skills.
  • Critical thinking is an important aspect of creative engineering.
  • Problem-based learning allows students to approach their problems from different directions and in their own creative way
  • Student collaborations can greatly improve students' understanding and knowledge of their problem.
  • You determined where you can implement these pedagogical techniques and how they could improve your class creativity/critical thinking skills.


After completing Unit 2, continue on to Unit 3: Incorporating pedagogical techniques in an engaging design

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