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Thinking style and collaborative design learning: An empirical investigation

Antonio P. Volpentesta, Salvatore Ammirato, Francesco Sofo


Design is both a practice and a way of thinking and forms the focus of this article which reports on concerted attempts to develop the design ability and creativity of students from different engineering disciplines through a Project-Based Learning (PBL) approach in a collaborative educational environment. The approach we introduce in this paper follows the idea that creativity arises from knowledge-sharing and synergies created through having many student designers working with a virtual group and a team coordinated by a teacher who plays the role of concept design manager. Using a thinking style inventory, pre- and post-survey, data were collected and successively analyzed through ANOVA techniques with the aim to reveal if any changes occur in the preferred thinking styles of learners while they are working and interacting during a PBL experience. Statistically significant results in pilot studies showed students successfully developed empathy and an openness to multiple perspectives. Furthermore, data analysis of pilot studies confirmed that the proposed collaborative learning experience conducted through the PBL approach positively contributed to increased awareness in students' thinking styles.