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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Wielding the Chaos of Creativity: Cultivating Integrated Thinking Skills in Science-based Disciplines Through Art/Design

Angela Patton.

In an age of technology, great importance is placed on science and engineering education. As a result learning is disproportionately driven by methodologies that are systematic and linear. The distance between science and humanities is reflective of an educational system that organizes knowledge through a bifurcation of mental processing (e.g., objectivity vs. subjectivity, verbal vs. visual) to the detriment of creative problem solving.
In an effort to align technology and humanities, the Liberal Education Division of the American Society of Engineering Education cites “four of the nine specific outcomes” of engineering programs defined by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) as opportunities for liberal education. Absent from this assessment, however, is the role that humanities can play in cultivating thinking skills that go beyond analysis to address creative processing. Critical thinking, while vital to the application of knowledge, exists within the parameters of reason, serving to inhibit the irrational side of idea making that is essential to creative outcomes.
Included in ABET’s mission statement, however, is a mandate “to stimulate innovation in engineering, technology and applied science education.” Innovation is best served by thinking that is both rational and intuitive, utilizing full cognitive functioning. Academic disciplines that adhere to systematic methodologies are less adept at wielding the chaos of creativity, thus impeding discovery and invention. This paper is based on foundation design curricula that is used in an interdisciplinary teaching initiative between art/design and science-based disciplines to cultivate integrated thinking skills and foster creative problem solving.


Angela Patton  (United States)
associate professor of art
Department of Art
University of Houston

Angela Patton is an associate professor of Art at the University of Houston. Her expertise is foundation design and design theory. Her visual work includes award winning environmental projects, products, images, electronic media, and works on paper. Her written work synthesizes design theory with other disciplines. She is co-founder of the UH Design Collaborative, an interdisciplinary teaching initiative that integrates design principles into other fields.

  • Integrated Thinking Skills
  • Rational and Intuitive Processing
  • Creative Thinking
  • Interdisciplinary Teaching Initiative

(30 min Conference Paper, English)