What can education do to foster students’ inventive design and problem-solving competencies? On the one hand, it is widely agreed that accomplishing this end is one of education’s main objectives today. On the other hand, many people regard creativity as a ‘God-given’ ability, something an individual either has or does not have but can hardly be learned or enhanced. Therefore, it is of no surprise that only little has been done to introduce the teaching of creative thinking into traditional schooling, either in K-12 education or in engineering education. In the current paper, however, I present a different viewpoint. The literature on design and problem-solving in engineering shows that while novices tend to follow a routine design approach or use the trial-and-error method, experts are likely to use domain-specific strategies, schemes and heuristics, move flexibly from one working method to another, combine given strategies in new ways, and solve problems by using shortcuts or rules-of-thumb rather than work according to a specific method. Therefore, it could be useful to teach students several heuristic methods for inventive design and problem-solving that have been used increasingly in engineering, for example, SCAMPER, TRIZ, Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT) and the Eight-Dimensional method. This paper briefly reviews some of these methods and addresses the outcomes of several studies about teaching the methods to engineers and designers in industry, junior high school students, and science and technology teachers. The findings indicate that the participants often improved their achievements in suggesting original solutions to problems in comparison to a control group, and successfully utilized the method they had learned in their final project. The implications to engineering education are also discussed.

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