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Influence of prior knowledge on students' performance in idea generation: Reflection on university entry requirements

27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016

Abstract: Context: Creative performance of science and engineering professionals is supported by their ability to generate diverse solution ideas. The latter ability, in turn, can be influenced by numerous factors including prior knowledge and experience of the problem solver as well as by ideation heuristics she/he uses. This paper investigates the influence of prior science knowledge on the outcomes of an idea generation experiment that engaged engineering students from Australia, Czech Republic, Finland and Russian Federation in resolving the same open-ended technical problem.

Purpose: The outcomes of the abovementioned idea generation experiment were unexpected. Australian students proposed statistically significantly less distinct ideas than their international counterparts. Moreover, the ideas generated by the Australian students were not as broad as ideas generated by the students from the other three countries. Such poor performance of Australian students contradicted the results of the 2012 OECD PISA assessment of creative problem solving skills, which positioned Australian 15-year-olds above their international peers from Czech Republic and Russian Federation and on a par with students from Finland. The reasons for such a poor performance by Australian students required exploration.

Approach: In order to establish the potential reasons behind the unexpectedly poor performance of Australian students this study reflected on: (1) the results of OECD PISA 2012 assessment of student skills in mathematics, science and reading and the results of the 2012 OECD PISA assessment of creative problem solving skills; (2) performance of students from Australia, Czech Republic, Finland and Russian Federation in the abovementioned idea generation experiment; (3) reviews of educational systems of Australia, Czech Republic, Finland and Russian Federation as well as the admission requirements at universities that participated in the abovementioned idea generation experiment.

Results: It was discovered that the minimum university admission requirements in science knowledge at participating universities from Czech Republic, Finland and Russian Federation were similar and substantially more demanding than that at the Australian university. All other identified factors that could have influenced the idea generation performance were evaluated and found to be insignificant. Therefore, it was concluded that the most likely reason for poor performance of Australian engineering students compared with their counterparts from Czech Republic, Finland and Russian Federation was related to significant differences in their prior science knowledge.

Conclusions: This study demonstrated that a lack of prior knowledge in science might limit creative abilities of STEM graduates. Australian STEM educators need to revisit university admission requirements and to consider establishing admission thresholds of prior science knowledge similar to those existing in other countries if we would like to see Australian graduates on par with their international counterparts.

To cite this article: Belski, Iouri and Belski, Regina. Influence of prior knowledge on students' performance in idea generation: Reflection on university entry requirements [online]. In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 79-87. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=679207512529503;res=IELENG> ISBN: 9780994152039. [cited 27 Jun 17].

Personal Author: Belski, Iouri; Belski, Regina; Source: In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 79-87. DOI: Document Type: Conference Paper ISBN: 9780994152039 Subject: Academic achievement; Science--Study and teaching; Engineering students; Problem solving; Universities and colleges--Admission; Peer Reviewed: Yes Affiliation: (1) Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, email: iouri.belski@rmit.edu.au
(2) La Trobe University

Database: Engineering Collection