Creativity and Design Based Learning – Applications to Gifted Education

One of the domains measured by the Gifted Rating Scale is creativity. When we think about creativity, we often think about its role in artistic endeavors. In today’s blog, I wanted to highlight the importance of creativity in research, engineering design, and design-based practices and offer several resources about these practices in gifted education.

At Censeo Group, the external evaluation firm that I lead, our portfolio includes a number of science technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) evaluation projects. Our evaluation team often supports faculty who are developing and researching the effects of STEM curriculum materials and instructional practices on student learning. We recently completed a project supported by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program. The University of Akron Zip to STEM team developed a curriculum unit that integrated engineering and technology into force and motion science instruction. Middle school students in the Akron Public Schools (APS) used technology, including CAD software and a virtual wind tunnel, to design, test, and race a soap box derby mini car. Through this project, 8th grade APS students had the opportunity to experience hands-on, engaging learning, use technology, and apply science concepts to a practical task.

Activities that incorporate the engineering design process or design based learning allow students to engage in hands-on, applied projects in which they search for problems, investigate the viewpoints of those who use a product or engage with a system, work with diverse teammates who bring different perspectives to problem solving, analyze their proposed solution, and iterate to improve solutions. Design based learning processes guide students to deep learning around a practical problem for which students propose solutions.

A recent episode of Bonni Stachowiak’s Teaching in Higher Education Podcast with guest Nicola Ulibarri provides a great introduction to design thinking and the importance of creativity in research and design endeavors. Dr. Ulibarri’s recently-published book, Creativity in Research, is a good resource for researchers and for teachers who are supporting student-led research activities. Although the podcast focuses on teaching in higher education, there are many ideas relevant to K12 educators and gifted education.

Below is a list of articles and books that discuss engineering design and design based thinking in gifted education that provide a good start to learn more about this topic.