Part of the 4TU.Federation
4TU.
Centre for
Engineering Education

Project introduction and background information

Critical thinking is generally acknowledged to be an essential skill for present and future engineers (Kamp, 2016). Although many course descriptions mention critical thinking, almost no courses at Dutch technical universities are entirely dedicated to the subject. Attention has to be paid to the unique ways normative and factual issues are intertwined in engineering matters, something hardly commented upon by the existing critical thinking literature. Consequently we have had to develop a new book and teaching material that help engineers to perform their professional tasks which often require clear thinking and argumentation on a societal level.

Objective and expected outcomes

This project aims to deliver ready-made course material for Critical Thinking for Engineers courses that meet the needs of teachers at the Dutch universities of technology.

Outcomes or Deliverables

The course material aims to cover:

  • flexible lecture sheets easily adaptable to courses for all faculties
  • accompanying lecture notes and book manuscript;
  • elaborated cases from all faculties that serve the purposes of illustration or exercises of assignments;
  • possibly modules for blended learning;
  • multiple choice exam questions and other examination materials on paper and perhaps online.

Results and learnings

Many colleagues ranging from PhDs to professors at TU Delft attended our Critical Thinking workshop during the education day in 2019. This shows that many teachers are interested in the topic. During the event the definition, the topics, the skills and didactic methods were discussed. Another lesson is that despite differences in emphasis, there is considerable overlap and consensus amongst the colleagues, who want to pay attention to critical thinking. All issues were connected to clear analysis of the facts of the problem situation and argumentation on the one hand, and on rational decision making in design or intervention on the other. 

Furthermore according to evaluations, students (bachelor and master) are interested in the subject, and feel its relevance for their engineering abilities. Also, a Critical Thinking course on thesis propositions is popular amongst PhD students and is highly evaluated. The topic clearly resonates on many levels of TU Delft.