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Optica Publishing Group
  • ETOP 2013 Proceedings
  • (Optica Publishing Group, 2013),
  • paper EThC1

Developing Critical Thinking, Creativity and Innovation Skills of Undergraduate Students (Invited Paper)

Open Access Open Access


A desirable goal of engineering education is to teach students how to be creative and innovative. However, the speed of technological innovation and the continual expansion of disciplinary knowledge leave little time in the curriculum for students to formally study innovation. At West Point we have developed a novel upper-division undergraduate course that develops the critical thinking, creativity and innovation of undergraduate science and engineering students. This course is structured as a deliberate interactive engagement between students and faculty that employs the Socratic method to develop an understanding of disruptive and innovative technologies and a historical context of how social, cultural, and religious factors impact the acceptance or rejection of technological innovation. The course begins by developing the background understanding of what disruptive technology is and a historical context about successes and failures of social, cultural, and religious acceptance of technological innovation. To develop this framework, students read The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn, The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin, and The Two Cultures by C.P. Snow. For each class meeting, students survey current scientific and technical literature and come prepared to discuss current events related to technological innovation. Each student researches potential disruptive technologies and prepares a compelling argument of why the specific technologies are disruptive so they can defend their choice and rationale. During course meetings students discuss the readings and specific technologies found during their independent research. As part of this research, each student has the opportunity to interview forward thinking technology leaders in their respective fields of interest. In this paper we will describe the course and highlight the results from teaching this course over the past five years.


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