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Fostering creative minds: what predicts and boosts design competence in the classroom?

Abstract

Can originality in real-world creative design thinking be improved through instruction and practice? Do such frequently-used measures of creative ideation as the Alternative Uses Task or Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, or other factors predict students' performance on actual industry-based design-brief challenges? Results to date are weakly promising but mixed. Here, we adopt a multi-componential view of creativity, according to which creative performance is influenced by multiple intrapersonal cognitive-motivational and environmental factors. As part of a 14-week undergraduate creative methods course, we obtained performance-based measures on several cognitive-behavioral divergent thinking tasks, together with self-report measures of personality and task-related interest. Analyses of the creative performance of 98 students who completed the creative methods course showed that (1) originality on a pre-course design challenge was predicted by a composite of performance on divergent-thinking tasks, personality, and task-related interest factors, (2) students demonstrated large and significant pre-to-post gains in originality on the design challenge and on two verbal Torrance tests, (3) gains were shown equally regardless of initial design performance. Those who started the course with lower originality scores on the design challenge gained at least as much as those who embarked with higher originality scores. These results are consistent with a multi-componential theoretical view of creativity, suggesting that a multipronged training approach, involving hands-on individual and team activities combined with explicit instruction, can markedly boost creative problem-solving capabilities. Taken together, our findings indicate that creative abilities are not fixed and can improve through training and mentoring that embraces iterative design processes.

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Acknowledgements

We thank students Alexander Blissenbach, Ingrid Carroll, Susan Chen, Kunga Chime, Jinglun Li, Sewon Oh, Madison Schmidt, Richard Trantow, and Txiagee Xiong, who assisted with data scoring, and Sarah Alfalah, Frances Jedrzejewski, Krystianna Johnson, Jieun Kwon, and Sarah Prescott who helped with the in-class creativity assessments. This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

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Tran, K.N., Kudrowitz, B. & Koutstaal, W. Fostering creative minds: what predicts and boosts design competence in the classroom?. Int J Technol Des Educ 32, 585–616 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10798-020-09598-7

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Keywords

  • Creativity
  • Education
  • Divergent thinking
  • Design training
  • Innovation