Cultivation of critical thinking in undergraduate engineering education

D. Adair, M. Jaeger

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The quality of students? and engineers? thinking, and how they think, determines the quality of what they design, produce or make. Moreover, students and engineers today largely work with and, unquestioningly contribute to, the policies and agendas of the socially accepted market driven, pro-development standpoint [1]. So, in addition to the importance of critical thinking during technical development, critical thinking is also important to positioning students and engineers from a stance of social justice, and so allowing them to question effectively the efficacy of developments. Just as is found in many professions, engineers now need, more than ever, strong critical thinking skills to deal with a world of increasingly rapid change and complexity. In this work a definition of what the authors conclude critical thinking actually is will be given, based on the many ideas which can be found in the literature. The results of a small survey of how students view critical thinking in relation to themselves and how necessary they feel critical thinking is, will be reported as will how a preliminary initiative to cultivate more and systematic critical thinking within various mathematics modules found in an undergraduate engineering course was implemented and assessed. It has been concluded that most students already consider themselves as effective critical thinkers, which may or may not be self-delusion. Also, it was quickly recognized that although workshops and seminars on critical thinking have their place to initiate awareness, a systematic semi-implicit approach over a period of time is very necessary to cultivate critical thinking. That is, once the principles of critical thinking are grasped and, importantly accepted by the student, then a period of time is necessary for cultivation, practice and hopefully becoming second nature.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 43rd SEFI Annual Conference 2015 - Diversity in Engineering Education: An Opportunity to Face the New Trends of Engineering, SEFI 2015
PublisherEuropean Society for Engineering Education (SEFI)
ISBN (Electronic)9782873520120
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Event43rd SEFI Annual Conference 2015, SEFI 2015 - Orleans, France
Duration: Jun 29 2015Jul 2 2015


Other43rd SEFI Annual Conference 2015, SEFI 2015


  • Critical thinking
  • Undergraduate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)
  • Education

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