This study describes development of an assignment (the final project) used for assessment of creative thinking in an undergraduate robotic course. Robotics inherently demands creativity, requiring exploration and investigation among several different methods to eventually generate a satisfactory solution. Assessment of students’ creative thinking fits naturally into our robotic course, which has a 2.5-hour lab session each week for students to work on physical/simulated robots. Students are asked to complete three projects over one semester. This paper describes the re-design and fine-tuning of the final project such that assessment of creative thinking can be incorporated into this robotic course as a regular component.
While many courses offer opportunities for students to work on projects, feedback were usually provided at the stage of final products. The process of creative thinking was instead insufficiently assessed. The objective of this study is to design a well-structured robotic-specific assignment that emphasizes and promotes creative thinking throughout the semester. Five weeks were allocated in fall 2020 for the final project. Constructive feedback was provided to students weekly, which in turn improved the overall quality of the final products.
Instead of using one single topic/task in the final project, several candidate topics are provided. Each group, typically consisting of one or two students, are allowed to select the one that they are most interested in pursuing. Each candidate topic is associated a “risk index”, indicating how challenging this option can be as perceived by the instructor, and thus the level of risk that students need to take to complete this particular task. A lower risk index corresponds to a less risk-taking decision. Further, for each candidate topic, hints and suggestions of possibly more than one method are provided. Students’ ability of embracing contradictions is evaluated by if students have considered and/or implemented various methods. A higher assessment score is given to groups who have investigated and compared multiple different methods (at least more than one method) before settling down on one solution. Acquiring competencies is evaluated based on the cumulative/overall capability that each student has acquired and demonstrated from the beginning till the end of the semester. Solving problems is evaluated by the completeness of the task, being definitely satisfactory, satisfactory, acceptable, or unacceptable. Finally, evaluation of innovative thinking is based on if each group has proposed and implemented their own solutions other than those suggested.
In summary, five out of six performance criteria from the Creative Thinking Value Rubric were assessed in fall 2020 using the final project of the robotic course offered. Creative Thinking Value Rubric was used for the performance criteria. This paper presents three carefully-designed candidate topics for the final project, together with the collected assessment results. We believe that by including this assessment as a regular course component, students’ creative thinking capability will be enhanced to better prepare them for future careers.