The main goal of engineering education is to prepare students for professional practice having competencies like - structuring open problems, engineering design skills, analyze and interpret data, work with interdisciplinary team, solve complex open problems, etc . Today's workplaces also demand people with skills to solve non-routine complex problems . To solve a non-routine complex problem, some of the important thinking skills involved are creative thinking, critical thinking, analytical thinking, interpersonal thinking skill. Based on the analysis of current research work in Computer Science & Engineering education most of the technology enabled innovative teaching techniques are focused on teaching content or concepts and less on developing thinking skills needed for an engineer to sustain in industry. The thinking skills are difficult for a student to acquire without teaching explicitly .
To develop complex problem solving competency, one of the important thinking skill is divergent and convergent thinking . Divergent thinking seeks multiple perspective and multiple solutions to a problem, while convergent thinking is critically analyzing and selecting a best solution for a given problem . The current focus of my research study is in developing a TEL environment to develop divergent and convergent thinking skills in students through open problem solving. Consider the following open, real world problem-
"Given a bank, that has thousands of customer records and wants to build an online service for its customers to check their account details online. The requirement of the online service is that the customer should get the response quickly once the request is given. Design an efficient solution for the above stated requirement."There can be different solutions to the above problem. Some of them are listed below:
If students are asked to solve such open problems, they may come up with single solution may not be able to justify why the solution is better than other solutions, as students lack the thinking skills needed to solve such open problems. In this problem the students should be prompted to generate multiple solutions and then perform pros and cons analysis to find the efficient solution based on the requirements. This way students will be able to come up with better solution and justify the selected solution.The process of generating multiple solutions is knows as divergent thinking and the process of evaluating and selecting the most desirable solution based on pros and cons analysis is known as convergent thinking
The broad research question is "Does teaching and learning of divergent and convergent thinking skill affect the acquisition of open problem solving competency?"
We propose an open problem solving process with integrated divergent to convergent thinking in each phase of open problem solving as shown in figure below.