Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Engineering, Creativity, Creative Problem Solving

Major Advisor

James C. Kaufman

Associate Advisor

Ronald Beghetto

Associate Advisor

Jonathan Plucker

Associate Advisor

Catherine Little

Field of Study

Educational Psychology


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


There is a growing call for enhancing creativity in engineering education. However, research indicates that most higher education institutions still lack the needed criteria for providing students with real-world experience that will hone their creative problem solving skills. Creating such environments requires a deeper understanding of different facets of engineering creativity. One key question is how engineering students across related disciplines demonstrate different strengths across the stages of the creative problem solving process. To study this issue, a sample of 505 engineering students was recruited from one northeastern university. Using the analysis of covariance statistical technique, this study compared engineering students on creative problem solving skills (specifically, problem recognition, idea generation, idea evaluation, and solution validation) and overall creativity. Multiple linear regressions were conducted to investigate the relationship between individual difference measures (such as gender, personality, and creative self-efficacy) and problem solving stages, as well as the possible association between these problem solving processes and specific desired educational outcomes (specifically, self-reported GPA, learning goals, performance goals, perceived ability, and academic interest in engineering). Additionally, two path analysis models were conducted to further investigate the association between the creative problem solving stages and overall creativity, and to explore how the three divergent thinking measures predicted the overall creativity. The findings of this research revealed that engineering students’ scores on the problem recognition stage and overall creativity varied based on engineering major and year in the engineering program. However, scores on the other creative problem solving stages (idea generation, idea evaluation, and solution validation) did not vary by major nor by year. Overall creativity was significantly associated with learning goals, perceived ability, and interest, but not with engineering students’ performance goals. Path analysis models revealed that the quality of problem recognition and solution validation positively predicted creativity, whereas that the quality of idea generation and idea evaluation negatively predicted creativity. Divergent thinking measures positively predicted creativity. The core results emphasize the importance of problem recognition, domain knowledge, and experience in the creative process. These findings, along with past research, can be used to help advise engineering education to best nurture student creativity.