NSF TUES (#1245635), “Infusing Creative Thinking Into STEM Education”,
PI- DiLuzio, active September 2013 - February 2016.
Innovation, discovery, invention and the ability to develop or construct new bodies of knowledge are the direct result of the creative act: creative thinking, problem stating and problem solving. The unsaid mandate, of almost, any educational institution is to develop students’ creative potential to their fullest. The problem with achieving this aspiration is that the creative process itself is not taught nor included across the widest spectrum of an institution’s curriculum as an independent discipline. For the most part, the teaching of creativity is done under the purview of the Fine Arts and Design and in specific areas of the Humanities, such as Creative Writing. The premise of this proposal is to expand knowledge of the creative thinking process and increase the effectiveness of faculty in delivering a curriculum that reinforces creative thinking as an integral part of undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.
The goal of this pilot project is to infuse creative thinking teaching into existing STEM courses at the University of Southern Maine (USM). The major objective to achieving this goal is to engage STEM faculty in workshops to introduce them to techniques used by faculty in creative thinking disciplines and to help them develop modules for incorporation into existing courses. The project will bring together one cohort of 8 faculty from the Departments of Applied Medical Sciences; Environmental Science; Exercise, Health and Sports Sciences; Biology; Computer Science; Mechanical Engineering, and Technology for 5-day summer institutes, where STEM education and creative thinking processes and strategies are outlined and related teaching modules are designed by the faculty cohorts for incorporation into their already existing curricula during academic years 2014-2015. The chosen faculty cohort will participate in the 2014 Summer Institute, and then develop their modules and incorporate the modules into one of their scheduled classes in their 2014 and 2015 course loads. We anticipate these participating faculty's students will be exposed to creative thinking processes and strategies during the 30-month project period.
Intellectual Merit: Science educators have stressed that students need to acknowledge the creative work involved by nature in scientific endeavors. However, despite the long history and much effort in improving teaching of creativity few studies for teaching creativity in the area of science education at the K-12 and undergraduate levels have been done. To this end, the underlying intellectual principle of the proposal is the evaluation of the impact of creative thinking teaching on improving faculty teaching and undergraduate student learning outcomes in STEM disciplines. The project will evaluate the impact of creating thinking teaching on students’ knowledge and attitudes towards STEM, their awareness and appreciation of STEM, its interconnectedness to creative process, and on their academic success in the classrooms. The project will also evaluate the impact of creative thinking on faculty’s perception of and knowledge, skills, and practices relating to creative thinking, and their attitudes toward incorporating innovative creative thinking modules for expanding knowledge and expertise into established STEM instructions. Finally, the project will determine what aspects of the creative thinking processes and strategies worked and what did not work, which components of the processes and strategies were most helpful, and what additional supports and learning experiences might faculty and students need.
Broader Impact: The project expects to enhance creative thinking teaching among USM STEM faculty, to have modules developed for multiple STEM classes, and to introduce the creative thinking process to scores of USM students in multiple disciplines. This project will serve as a model for incorporating creative thinking process education in STEM instructions across all STEM disciplines at USM and at other institutions of higher education.
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