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A Parallel Thinking Problem Solving Pedagogy Towards Development of T-Shaped Engineers
The purpose of this contribution is to present a work-in-progress that features illustrative applications of a parallel thinking problem solving pedagogy, as well as connections to enhancements in students’ problem-solving skills, implemented in an undergraduate transport phenomena course focused on bio systems. The strategy is being explored in multiple courses in a Chemical Engineering (CHE) curriculum including heat transfer, fluid mechanics, mass transfer, reaction engineering, and biotransport phenomena. Some of these comprise part of a larger Quality Enhancement Plan curricular redesign in CHE focused on enhancing students’ critical and creative thinking skills as related to challenge characterization (knowledge acquisition) and related problem solving (knowledge transfer). Leveraging the Renaissance Foundry Model, student teams are likewise envisioned to transfer and upscale their understanding of the parallel approach to a challenge that they have identified.
The goal of the curricular efforts is to help students develop increased efficiency in skills for the understanding and the solution of a challenge and thus critical thinking that align with desired attributes of a T-shaped engineer. Given the complexity of the challenges facing society today, the development of advanced problem-solving capabilities that integrate skills in problem analysis and identification is a highly important area of focus in higher education. As a recognized aspect of critical thinking, these integrated problem-solving skills represent a sub-set of the many attributes of a T-shaped engineer which is envisioned as a holistically-trained engineer possessing both deep technical content knowledge and skills that cut across disciplines. Towards the development of such, the parallel thinking problem solving pedagogy is being explored in which student teams seek to tackle an identified problem using each of four complementary techniques: thought exercises, analytical methodologies, experimentation, and simulation. This contribution will provide observations and details regarding these applications.