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Observation of Cross-Disciplinary Practices in a Design Learning Context

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Design Spine

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1114.1 - 22.1114.9



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Paper Authors


Ming-Chien Hsu Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Ming-Chien Hsu is a doctoral students in the school of engineering education at Purdue University. She received her B.S. at NCTU, Taiwan and M.S. at Purdue, both in electrical engineering. Ming-Chien's research focus is on design learning in the cross-disciplinary context.

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Observation of Cross-Disciplinary Practices in a Design Learning ContextCross-disciplinary practice is required in many engineering problems in order to bring togetherdiverse perspectives and expertise. Here, the term “cross-disciplinary” refers to working acrossdifferent perspectives, encompassing practices such as multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary.We are interested in exploring cross-disciplinary practice in the context of design learning;particularly, in being able to identify team members’ current cross-disciplinary behavior andopportunities for helping students develop more sophisticated cross-disciplinary practice skills. .We are in the process of observing a university design team in a service learning program over acourse of semester, The team is designing a volume capping headphone for an audiologyclinique. Besides 4 members from different engineering disciplines, there are also 2 studentsfrom audiology, which is considered a non-engineering discipline but essential for the context ofthe projectWe adopted the framework of critical variations in cross-disciplinary practice. The frameworkwas developed by Adams, Forin, & Srinvasan 1 using a phenomenographical method focusing onthe variations of how individual practitioners experienced cross-disciplinary practice inengineering settings. The framework includes four categories of variations: working together,intentional learning, strategic leadership, and challenge & transform practice. Although theframework was developed around individual experiences, it provides languages and a structureupon which we are able to capture instances of cross-disciplinary practice during team process.Our preliminary results show that cross-disciplinary practice is closely linked to the “thinking”,“doing”, and “being” of team members. In terms of the “thinking”, members are aware of thedifferent differences in terms of training and perspectives, limits regarding technologicalfeasibilities and own knowledge. Regarding the “doing”, members engaged in iterativecommunication process, and take responsibilities of being effective communicators. Regardingthe “being”, members have not crossed the boundary being just team members to learners,educators, or interface between disciplines. The figure below delineates the spaces of cross-disciplinary practices, and the filled-in spaces indicate where members of the observed team arecurrently in. In the paper, we will provide detailed explanations of the spaces and the types ofactivities that prompted us to place team members in each space. Another result beyond thescope of our framework shows the possible link between what designing is to members, howthey approach design, and how they approach cross-disciplinary practice.The results of the study revealed some important questions regarding cross-disciplinary practicesand learning in a design context. For example, what conceptions of design affect cross-disciplinary practice? The research will provide design educators with insight on how designlearning experience can be structured to encourage interfacing among people with differentexpertise. 4. Challenge & 1. Working together 2. Intentional Learning 3. Strategic Leadership transform practiceI.ThinkingII. DoingIII. Being Figure. Spaces of cross-disciplinary practice with highlighted spaces indicating where team members have been inReference1. Adams, R.; Forin, T.; Srinivasan, S. In Cross-disciplinary practice in engineeringcontexts- a developmental phenomenographical perspective, International Conference of theLearning Sciences, Chicago, IL, 2010; Chicago, IL, 2010.

Hsu, M. (2011, June), Observation of Cross-Disciplinary Practices in a Design Learning Context Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18471

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