School of Education

Summa Cum Laude Research Explores Means Employed by Design Students in Generating Ideas

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Mr McDonald Mnelemba graduates summa cum laude with his Master’s in Education.
Mr McDonald Mnelemba graduates summa cum laude with his Master’s in Education.
Mr McDonald Mnelemba is ecstatic to have graduated summa cum laude with his Master’s in Education following research that looked at creativity in students’ design projects amongst fourth year students at Malawi Polytechnic; one of the constituent colleges of the University of Malawi. His research stemmed from his love of design and technology, an interest in the concept of creativity and how one can enhance it. Findings revealed that the majority (91.5%) of the students’ design projects fell into the routine design solutions (familiar designs) category; meaning they were low in novelty and originality. The study also found that 3.7% of the designs were characterised as intelligently adapted designs, while only 5.7% of the design projects were characterised as proactive, creative designs. The study found that the students’ design projects were informed by factors such as personal experience; existing design solutions seen on the internet; simply engaging in design projects to fulfil academic requirements because of academic pressure as well as compromising originality by replicating ‘simple’ designs obtained from the internet because of a lack of materials and/or skills needed to produce original designs. ‘By understanding the whole process which university students use to generate design ideas, it might help teachers and university lecturers’ understand how students approach their design projects and how they can assist them to develop higher order thinking skills, hence increasing creativity. In the long run, the creative students will be able to solve societal problems creatively,’ suggests Mnelemba. During his studies, Mnelemba fell ill and was hospitalised. This hindered the progress of his studies; rendering him to progress “at a snail’s pace”. ‘I could not sit for longer periods because my leg swelled and I was in excruciating pain. Most of the time, I had to work from my bed,’ he said. Mnelemba however never gave up and is proud of his achievement. He thanked his family, friends and supervisor, Professor Busisiwe Alant, for their support during his illness and studies. He has a PhD in Education degree in his sights, advising students to focus and never give up despite whatever challenges they face.

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