Non-routine Mathematical Problem-Solving: Creativity, Engagement, and Intuition of STEM Tertiary Students
Evans, T; Klymchuk, S; Murphy, P; Novak, J; Stephens, J; Thomas, M
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This study set out to evaluate an intervention that introduced a period of non-routine problem-solving into tertiary STEM lectures at four tertiary institutions in New Zealand for 683 students. The aim was twofold: to attempt to increase student engagement and to introduce them to the kind of domain-free abstract reasoning that involves critical, creative, and innovative thinking. This study was conducted using a mixed-methods approach, utilizing different types of instruments to gather data: comprehensive student pre- and post-test questionnaires, a content validation survey for the questionnaires, focus group interviews (student participants), open-ended questionnaire (lecturer participants), and naturalistic class observations. The main findings are as follows. Students' behavioural engagement was significantly greater during the intervention. Perceptions of the utility value of the activity improved at the end of the semester for all students. There were no significant changes in students' convergent thinking (problem-solving), intuition, or creativity (originality, fluency, and elaboration traits of the divergent thinking) during the course, probably due to the relatively short timescale of the intervention. However, overall, the results of the investigation suggest that with a relatively small effort, teachers can improve STEM student engagement by devoting a few minutes per lecture on non-routine problem-solving. This is something that can be easily implemented, even by those who primarily teach in a traditional lecturing style.