Learning Orientation and Creativity

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Mindsets attributed to design are often prized in industries outside of design practice; the creative economy demands individuals who can think creatively, confront complex problems, and engage critically with the changing marketplace. Despite these demands, many higher education institutions struggle to center creativity in the learning experience. This exploratory sequential mixed-methods study examines design mindsets formed by college students who have experience with design thinking and creative problem-solving in first-year experience courses. Three institutions with three different pedagogical approaches to integrating design thinking form the context of the study. Semi-structured interviews asked sixteen participants to reflect meta-cognitively on experiences and outcomes gained from the courses. Findings indicated a range of design mindsets developed, including openness to diverse perspectives, tolerance of ambiguity, problem framing, empathy, and bias to action. A survey instrument assessing design mindsets followed the qualitative analysis; twenty-three respondents across three institutions demonstrated high scores in openness to diverse perspectives, desire to make a difference, optimism, learning orientation, and empathy. Comparison between qualitative and quantitative findings supports the integration of creativity, creative problem-solving, and design thinking in the first year to encourage the development of attitudes and mindsets best suited for the creative and knowledge economy.