Thinking Preferences of Engineering Students: Implications for Curriculum Restructuring

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The thinking preferences of engineering students at the University of Toledo have been assessed in a longitudinal study, using the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI). The scores and profiles reveal thinking preferences in four different ways of thinking and “knowing”: A = analytical‐logical‐quantitative, B = sequential‐organized‐detailed, C = interpersonal‐sensory‐kinesthetic, and D = innovative‐holistic‐conceptual thinking. With the HBDI, we have a tool that can assess the effects of curriculum restructuring. Data from 1990–1993 fall freshmen classes and 1991–1994 spring senior classes have been evaluated, where the 1994 seniors are the first group for which freshmen data are available. Conclusions drawn from the results are: 1) Overall, there has been a shift from “plug‐and‐chug” quadrant B thinking to increased “creative” quadrant D thinking, because more students with strong quadrant D preferences are being developed and retained, primarily due to the new creative problem solving course. 2) Avoidance of quadrant C thinking (teamwork skills) is persisting and creates classroom climates that are uncomfortable for some students, a high percentage being females. Students are not developing the teamwork and interpersonal thinking skills demanded by industry. 3) A majority of students are still being cloned in the A‐dominant profile of the faculty. Students who have developed independent ways of practicing right‐brain thinking and all students who were involved in creative problem solving as class assistants became more whole‐brained or right‐brained. Quadrant C and D thinking activities must be integrated into the curriculum each term for students to develop their full potential and reinforce the whole‐brain thinking skills introduced in the first‐year creative problem solving course. 1995 American Society for Engineering Education

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Journal of Engineering Education