June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.248.1 - 14.248.9
Assessing Student Perspectives of Interdisciplinary Collaboration
In order to prepare current engineering students to tackle the complex, global problems they will face in industry, engineering education researchers have begun to investigate interdisciplinary collaboration. As researchers continue to unravel the phenomenon of interdisciplinary collaboration, engineering educators are beginning to incorporate interdisciplinary design experiences into their courses. While these efforts aim to increase students’ skills for future interdisciplinary collaboration, assessments focusing on interdisciplinarity are still lacking.
This paper presents the adaptation of a scenario-based instrument, used to assess design cognition; the instrument was redesigned to assess students’ perceptions toward interdisciplinary collaboration. Specifically, the instrument was designed to measure students’ ability to identify and value the contributions of a full range of disciplines, both inside and outside of engineering. In doing so, it seeks to measure the students’ understanding of the need for broad-based interdisciplinary collaboration.
The instrument was piloted in an interdisciplinary green engineering capstone design course; this test data was triangulated with focus group and interview data, collected at the conclusion of the course. To reliably score the test data, a rubric was designed to quantify the students’ understanding with respect to interdisciplinary design collaboration. This rubric takes into account the different levels of perspective students provided through their answers. In order to triangulate the test data, the scoring rubric was used to create a coding scheme that then was applied to the interview and focus group data. From the analysis of the pre- and post-course tests, the students show a progression towards an awareness of need for interdisciplinary collaboration, but the focus group and interview data reveals that the level of perspective may not be at the same level as indicated from the survey data.
With the current complexity of the world, engineers are facing challenges that require knowledge, skills, methodologies, and perspectives from multiple disciplines while only having been educated in their specific engineering discipline. The new engineering workforce, specifically new graduates of engineering programs, need to develop skills of interdisciplinarity to collaborate in complex ways in order to integrate the knowledge, skills, methodologies, and perspectives from all the disciplines involved in developing solutions to these challenges. This call for interdisciplinarity at the undergraduate level comes from several government reports, including Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research1, Rising Above the Gathering Storm2, and Educating the Engineer of 20203. Another driving force to introduce undergraduate to interdisciplinary collaboration and learning comes from ABET with criteria 3 (d) and (h): “an ability to function on multidisciplinary teams” and “the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context”4.
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