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Initiating Interdisciplinary Projects: Finding Common Ground

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Tricks of the Trade for Research

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.765.1 - 10.765.7



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Paper Authors

author page

Beverly Davis

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Initiating Interdisciplinary Projects: Finding Common Ground

Gil Laware, Beverly Davis, and Karl Perusich Purdue University, College of Technology, 1733 Northside Blvd. South Bend, IN 46634


Successful approaches to interdisciplinary projects depend on several key components. The first and foremost is to recognize commonality in purpose. In an educational setting, that is the student. As colleagues at a prominent university, we have been encouraged by the president of our university and the dean of our college to work collaboratively across our disciplines. Most of the interdisciplinary projects and scholarly activities undertaken by the authors cooperatively have involved supporting the educational mission of our institution. In fact, some of our more research-oriented projects have their roots in teaching techniques and instructional problems. And more importunately, successful and meaningful interdisciplinary collaboration cumulatively benefits students in the classroom. A second key component of interdisciplinary collaboration is to let go of rigidity of thought and process and find common ground. Lastly, a key component is institutional support. Institutional leadership should not only recognize but encourage interdisciplinary cooperation.

In this paper, the authors review the strategies and rationales they have used in interdisciplinary activities. With creativity and a disciplined focus, the authors have found common ground in collaboration and objectives across disciplines. Although not always “politically” easy, an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and scholarship has often been preferable to other alternatives, and, in some cases, necessitated by circumstances. Recommendations will be shared for new faculty so their transition toward interdisciplinary collaborations will be successful.


Interdisciplinary collaborations have become a way of life and are flourishing, leaving behind the isolated disciplinary silos that have characterized many academic campuses in the past [3]. Current research supports the efficacy of student active learning approaches within the context of the traditional lecture/lab classroom structure. Problem-based learning, problem-centered learning, experiential learning, cooperative team learning and service learning share common attributes that foster learning behaviors and outcomes consistent with learning objectives. Problem-based learning (PBL) stimulates engagement and learning by presenting students with complex problems. PBL can also share qualities with experiential, service and cooperative learning. Designing open-ended, directed problems for small groups of students with the intent to produce solutions that benefit real life people and institutions can be a powerful pedagogical construction.

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Davis, B. (2005, June), Initiating Interdisciplinary Projects: Finding Common Ground Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14962

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2005 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015