Research Papers

Applied Tests of Design Skills—Part 1: Divergent Thinking

[+] Author and Article Information
Jami J. Shah

Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering,  Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287

Roger E. Millsap

Department of Psychology,  Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287

Jay Woodward

Department of Educational Psychology,  Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843

S. M. Smith

Department of Psychology,  Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843

J. Mech. Des 134(2), 021005 (Feb 03, 2012) (10 pages) doi:10.1115/1.4005594 History: Received September 01, 2010; Revised November 21, 2011; Published February 03, 2012

A number of cognitive skills relevant to conceptual design were identified previously. They include divergent thinking (DT), visual thinking (VT), spatial reasoning (SR), qualitative reasoning (QR), and problem formulation (PF). A battery of standardized tests is being developed for these design skills. This paper focuses only on the divergent thinking test. This particular test has been given to over 500 engineering students and a smaller number of practicing engineers. It is designed to evaluate four direct measures (fluency, flexibility, originality, and quality) and four indirect measures (abstractability, afixability, detailability, and decomplexability). The eight questions on the test overlap in some measures and the responses can be used to evaluate several measures independently (e.g., fluency and originality can be evaluated separately from the same idea set). The data on the twenty-three measured variables were factor analyzed using both exploratory and confirmatory procedures. A four-factor solution with correlated (oblique) factors was deemed the best available solution after examining solutions with more factors. The indirect measures did not appear to correlate strongly either among themselves or with the other direct measures. The four-factor structure was then taken into a confirmatory factor analytic procedure that adjusted for the missing data. It was found to provide a reasonable fit. Estimated correlations among the four factors (F) ranged from a high of 0.32 for F1 and F2 to a low of 0.06 for F3 and F4. All factor loadings were statistically significant.

Copyright © 2012 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

Abstract representation of design solution points in design spaces

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Figure 2

Part of an original exercise to test abstractability (since replaced)

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Figure 3

Scan of scoring sheet for Q1 measures

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Figure 4

Comparison of similarities between fixation exemplar and responses

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Figure 5

Evaluating detailability from responses

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Figure 7

DT skill profiles

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Figure 8

Comparison of one group of students to its peer group




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