Developing reflective engineers through an arts-incorporated graduate course: A curriculum inquiry

Jeong Hee Kim, Ngan T.T. Nguyen, Ryan C. Campbell, Sangmi Yoo, Roman Taraban, Danny D. Reible

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Engineering curricula have traditionally focused on preparing students to become specialized individuals with technical knowledge, while devoting less attention to reflective thinking about real-world engineering practice, which is fraught with complex, unpredictable, and ambiguous problems that require broader skills. More recently, engineering educators have recognized the need to broaden the engineering curriculum, in part by incorporating the arts and humanities. The present study involves the development of an arts-integrated graduate course in environmental engineering. The purpose of this paper is twofold: first, to explore how engineering students have experienced this new curriculum; and second, to understand how it has enhanced their reflective thinking skills. We employed a descriptive, intrinsic case study approach using student interviews, writing assignments, and artwork collected from the course as our primary sources of data. The findings show clear potential for the arts to provide meaningful changes in engineering students’ learning to become reflective thinkers. Hence, we suggest that engineering education be re-imagined by making the arts an essential part of the engineering curriculum to develop reflective engineers who are willing and able to navigate the “swampy lowlands” of engineering practice. The course provides a model for incorporating the arts to foster reflective thinking in graduate engineering education and the study contributes to the literature a distinctive, qualitative evaluation of its potential impacts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100909
JournalThinking Skills and Creativity
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Arts-based curriculum
  • Curriculum
  • Engineering education
  • Graduate education
  • Reflective thinking


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