Creativity and Elementary Engineering

In the theoretical framework of a new book called Engaging Young Engineers:  Teaching Problem Solving Skills Through STEM (Stone-Macdonald, Wendell, Douglass, Love, & Hyson, 2015), the authors posit that there are 5 kinds of thinking developed by teaching problem solving via STEM for early learners.

  1. Curious thinking
  2. Persistent thinking
  3. Flexible thinking
  4. Reflective thinking
  5. Collaborative thinking

In the chapter on flexible thinking, they cited an interesting article on creativity in the classroom context by Sternberg (2003).  In it, Sternberg claims that: 1) intelligence consists of  three forms:  analytic, practical, and creative and 2) that schools typically overvalue analytic intelligence (which also involves memory).

Sternberg lays out 12 types of creative decisions people make.

  1. Redefine problems
  2. Analyze your ideas
  3. Sell your ideas
  4. Knowledge is a double edged sword
  5. Surmount obstacles
  6. Take sensible risks
  7. Willingness to grow
  8. Believe in yourself
  9. Tolerance of ambiguity
  10. Find what you love and do it
  11. Allowing time
  12. Allowing mistakes

I thought that many, if not all of these,  are an integral part of the engineering process.

Sternberg’s overall conclusion is worth quoting at length.

“Our main conclusions are as follows. First, creative thinking is relatively distinct from analytical and practical thinking. Knowing someone’s skills in analytical or practical thinking will not say much about the person’s skills in creative thinking. Second, teaching for creative thinking in schools can improve children’s academic performance. It helps the more creative children to capitalise on a strength at the same time that it helps the less creative children to compensate for or correct a weakness. Third, creativity is in large part an attitude toward life. Specific decisions can be made that enhance creativity. ”  (p. 335-336)

Sternberg, R. J. (2003). Creative thinking in the classroom. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 47(3), 325–338.
Stone-Macdonald, A. K., Wendell, K. B., Douglass, A., Love, M. L., & Hyson, M. L. (2015). Engaging Young Engineers:  Teaching Problem Solving Skills Through STEM. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.
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