A project funded by the National Science Council has developed a teaching method to boost university students’ creativity, and three years of applying the method to civil engineering education at National Taiwan University (NTU) has shown good results, the council said.
Kang Shih-chung (康仕仲), project leader and an associate professor at NTU’s Department of Civil Engineering, first applied the method — called the IDEAL (Initiation, Development, Emotion, Alternatives and Links) Training Model — to a compulsory introductory engineering course at his department in 2010.
Unlike the traditional teaching method of teachers giving lectures and “pouring down” knowledge to students, Kang redesigned the introductory course by giving students case studies and allowing them to “initiate” new ideas, to “develop” the ideas from one to more or from easy ones to more complicated ones, to come up with “alternative” ideas if their designs failed to perform as planned, and to “link” their ideas into integrated and practical designs.
Taking the Sydney Opera House as a case study, students were asked to design a building for the year 2060 that incorporated different aspects, such as engineering techniques, material technology, traffic, location and social composition. The designs were later reviewed by experts and practitioners in the field who would then give their suggestions.
“If you imagine the students’ knowledge as teapots, I think it’s important to think about how to increase the size of the pots, rather than trying to continuously pour more knowledge into them when they are almost or already full,” he said.
Students nowadays can learn from many different channels, but it is important that they learn to think bravely beyond current limits and learn the limits from their own hands-on experiments by themselves, he added.
Two junior students from the department who took the course two years ago said it was very interesting because it allowed them to discuss their ideas with other students or demonstrate their designs during class.
The team said the training model is now being used in workshops in different fields at a number of different schools, and hopefully it can restructure teaching methods in Taiwan’s higher education to boost the creativity and expand the vision of students.