Loebner, E.E., Schade, C.M., “Introduction to Heuristics of Invention and Discovery,” SU-DMS-70-T-14, Stanford University, 1969.

A course designed to fill a recognized gap in engineering and applied science education will be offered for the third time in January 1970 in the Materials Science Department of the School of Engineering at Stanford University. The course in intended for those graduate students who are actively pursuing careers in applied science or engineering. Its aim is twofold: firstly, to transmit an understanding of discovertive and inventive human behavior; secondly, to assist in the development of these mental skills within the student’s own field. Teaching to be inventive is quite analogous to Scheffler’s carefully analyzed case of teaching to be honest. In Scheffler’s own words, one is “confronted immediately with the delicate educational problem of attempting to develop at once patterns of action and impartial reflection on such patterns.”

The idea to design and implement such a course was born from the desire to influence the trend of contemporary university education. It was felt that engineering education should be bent away from narrow patterns of introvertive technical training toward freer manipulations of these skills and exercising of services more responsive to societal needs. The inertia and opposition to the proposal for such an undertaking, which had been expected from the academic establishment, did not materialize. The unexpected support for this undertaking can be traced to three factors: (i) the ground had already been cultivated by the late Professor John Arnold, who for several years had taught “Creative Engineering” at Stanford, a course which he originated at MIT fifteen years ago, (ii) the Department of Materials Science was already headed in the direction of despecialization (4) and (iii) students had a better appreciation of their educational needs than many faculty members were willing to give them credit for. The third factor’s existence became quite apparent from the answers given in response to a questionnaire which was distributed during the first class meeting. Over 80% of the respondees expressed strong belief that such a course could enhance their creativity and needed no “selling” of the idea.

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Heuristics