Collaborative Research: Fostering Engineering Creativity and Communication through Immediate, Personalized Feedback on 2D-Perspective Drawing
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This project aims to serve the national interest in excellent undergraduate engineering education by improving students’ ability to draw representations of structures and systems. Free-hand drawing is a crucial skill across engineering, especially for its ability to reduce complex systems to simplified, accurate diagrams. Such diagrams aid in idea generation, visualization of systems, and discussions between clients and engineers. When coupled with appropriate timely feedback, drawing can also be an effective learning tool for improving students’ visual communication skills and creativity. This project will use a computer application called SketchTivity to teach engineering students how to draw, and examine the impact of drawing instruction on student learning. SketchTivity is an intelligent tutoring system that provides real-time feedback on 2D drawings that students make on a screen instead of on paper. The application, which was developed by the research team, provides each student with iterative, real-time, personalized feedback on the drawing, promoting improvements and facilitating learning. Free-hand drawing and its associated benefits were inadvertently removed from the engineering curricula when educators transitioned from hand drafting to Computer-Aided-Design. This transition has resulted in the lack of student and faculty proficiency in freehand drawing. This project will support restoration of 2D-perspective drawing to engineering curricula. Since drawing is a skill that is also relevant to other STEM fields, this work is likely to have broad relevance in undergraduate STEM education. The project will enable the distribution of SketchTivity software to approximately 5,000 diverse undergraduate and graduate students at four partnering institutions. These students include a large percentage of women and students from other groups that are not equitably represented in STEM fields. The project has the potential to produce significant new knowledge about drawing-based artificial intelligence (AI) tools. It can also increase understanding about the effects of feedback and reflective prompts on drawing skills, and on learning and creativity. The project will compare AI-based assessments to assessments conducted by humans, thus providing additional information about development of intelligent tutoring systems. The impact of drawing ability on students’ creativity and spatial reasoning skills will be investigated, along with the transferability of drawing skills to other courses in engineering. A mixed-methods approach that includes surveys, validated assessments for engineering design creativity, and drawing quizzes, is proposed to assess project outcomes. The NSF IUSE: EHR Program supports research and development projects to improve the effectiveness of STEM education for all students. Through the Engaged Student Learning track, the program supports the creation, exploration, and implementation of promising practices and tools. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.