BACKGROUND OR CONTEXT
Many authors have reported on the unsuccessful efforts of engineering educators in enhancing creative problem solving skills of engineering students (Adams et al., 2011; I. Belski, Baglin, & Harlim, 2013; Daly, Mosyjowski, & Seifert, 2014; Douglas et al., 2012; Steiner et al., 2011; Woods et al., 1997). A number of recent studies have been devoted to successes of teaching the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) to engineering students in order to enhance their skills in creative problem solving (Becattini & Cascini, 2013; I. Belski, 2009, 2015; Berdonosov, 2013; Busov, 2010; Dumas & Schmidt, 2015; Livotov, 2013). Moreover, it has been reported that even a simple TRIZ tool of Substance- Field Analysis (I. Belski, 2007) as well as the Random Word technique (de Bono, 1990) can improve the outcomes of students’ idea generation. In their experiment, Belski et al. (2014) involved undergraduate students of the first year in generating ideas for a real knowledge-rich, ill-defined problem. Students from a control group generated solution ideas in silence for 16 minutes. Students in one experimental group were shown eight random words for two minutes per field. Students in the other two experimental groups were shown the names of the eight fields of Substance-Field Analysis (MATCEMIB: Mechanical, Acoustic, Thermal, Chemical, Electrical, Magnetic, Intermolecular, Biological) for two minutes per field. Exposure to both eight random words the eight fields of MATCEMIB assisted the students from the experimental groups to generate statistically significantly more solution ideas compared to the students from the control group.
PURPOSE OR GOAL
The above-mentioned experiment was conducted at one university and its results could have been specific to students of this particular university. This paper investigates whether exposure to random words and eight fields of MATCEMIB influences students from different universities and different background in the same way it influenced the students at Australian university. If the results of the above-mentioned experiment remain the same at other universities, the conclusion that simple ideation heuristics can be used to enhance problem solving skills of engineering graduates will be supported much more strongly.
The experiment that was conducted with the first year engineering students in Australia in 2014 has been replicated with the first year students at three universities: Brno University of Technology in Czech Republic, Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland and Komsomolsk-on-Amur State University in Russian Federation. It was anticipated that the results of the experiments in Russian Federation, Finland and Czech Republic will closely match the results from Australia.
Similarly to the Australian experiment, students from the experimental groups from Russian Federation, Finland and Czech Republic that were shown the names of the eight fields of MATCEMIB outperformed the students from other groups. Moreover, they generated statistically significantly more ideas when their control group counterparts. Unexpectedly, the numbers of idea generated by the students from Czech Republic, Finland and Russian Federation, who were exposed to eight random words, did not significantly exceed the number of solution proposals of the students from the control groups as it occurred in the original Australian experiment. Students from the control groups from Czech Republic and Finland generated nearly the same number of ideas than the students that were exposed to eight random words. Students from the control group in Russian Federation performed significantly better than the students from the random word group.
The outcomes of the experiments conducted in Russian Federation, Finland and Czech Republic support the conclusion drawn by Belski et al. (2014) that introducing engineering students to simple ideation heuristics is likely to enhance their problem solving skills. At the same time, the discrepancy in idea generation results of groups that were shown eight random words suggest that the Random Word heuristic may not be as useful for idea generation as some more formal ideation heuristics. The fact that the results of RMIT study on the influence of the eight fields of MATCEMIB have been replicated by three other universities in three different countries reinforce the position of Su-Field Analysis as a simple ideation heuristics that is able to effectively enhance problem solving skills of engineering students.