12 August 2020: Completion of the Large National Project in STEM Education

12 August 2019

A team of 10 members and associate members of the STEM-TEC completed a two-year national Teaching and Learning Research Initiative project supported by a large $198,200 grant from the New Zealand Council for Educational Research “Investigating the Impact of Non-Routine Problem Solving on Creativity, Engagement and Intuition of STEM Tertiary Students”.

Principal investigator(s): Associate Professor Sergiy Klymchuk (AUT) and Emeritus Professor Mike Thomas (University of Auckland)
Research team members: Associate Professor Jason Stephens, Dr Julia Novak, Dr Tanya Evans, University of Auckland
Research partners: Professor Sergei Gulyaev, Dr Jordan Alexander, Dr William Liu, Dr Priscilla Murphy (AUT); Dr Andrew Zaliwski, Whitireia New Zealand.

Project description

In recent years, some universities in Australia, Europe and the USA, have introduced formal academic courses or seminars for their first-year Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students based on a Puzzle-Based Learning (PzBL) pedagogical strategy, with some making them compulsory. The primary aim of our project was the evaluation of a strategic and innovative pedagogical intervention based on PzBL in undergraduate STEM courses. In particular, it investigated the effects of this pedagogy on student engagement and its influence on their intuition and creativity.

Research questions

The project sought to answer the following research questions:

  • Does the integration of non-routine problem solving in lectures affect participants’ engagement in lectures, and/or their ability to inhibit intuitive thinking and exhibit creative thinking?
  • Are any observed effects moderated by individual differences such as demographic characteristics or prior ability?
  • How do students react to the integration of non-routine problem solving in their lectures?

Why is this research important?

In 2012, the New Zealand government identified as a priority the need to address the undersupply of students studying STEM subjects for delivering its Business Growth Agenda (www.mbie.govt.nz). Low engagement and retention rates in STEM subjects contribute to the shortage of STEM graduates, producing a negative impact on the New Zealand economy. The PzBL pedagogical strategy has the potential to increase the students retention rate in STEM subjects by improving their engagement. Another aspect is the role of creativity in students future careers. Whilst creativity has an intrinsic value and is generally considered to be important, its greatest effect arguably is on students employability as it is a workplace requirement nowadays.

The full information including the project report, poster, publications from the project are on the TLRI website.