Virtual On line
June 22, 2020
June 22, 2020
June 26, 2021
This article details the development, design, and implementation of an interdisciplinary project-based learning approach. The project offers a transformative educational experience to students, merging coursework across three different academic disciplines. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education has been challenged by industries to incorporate business and communication experiences (and vice versa) that prepare students for the workplace. Incorporating interdisciplinary project-based coursework provides experiential learning for students, a skillset that employers indicate as desirable.
To facilitate the interdisciplinary academic project, we began with group social interventions. These interventions were used in a multi-component plan to improve student resiliency and empowerment to support social, emotional, and academic development. This paper presents the development of the interdisciplinary course, preliminary observations, and redesign of the course.
Phase one developed an interdisciplinary course launched in the spring of 2019. A total of 59 students participated in the project, working on seven industry-sponsored projects. While all students were required to work together, each discipline was responsible for separate deliverables in their respective courses. All students collaborated on presentations to the clients. This project involved surveys and observations during team-building activities.
Initially students expressed fear, trepidation, and excitement regarding the proposed interdisciplinary collaboration. Team-building activities were introduced through an escape room experience. This allowed the authors to observe and measure the teams’ success, which revealed a high level of positive interdependence, group processing, and social skills. Later, students demonstrated relatively high levels of satisfaction, enjoyment, and agreed this was a unique educational experience. However, students rated the group structural components relatively lower than other aspects; this data guided and informed the redesign into phase two.
Phase two developed additional structure to our interdisciplinary project. We built a project road map over summer 2019 based on the feedback from students in phase one. The road map details major milestones and events. The student teams meet weekly for these events and milestones and have additional course modules to complete.
Our data suggest collaboration in interdisciplinary project-based learning does initially produce disorientation, some trepidation, and confusion. However, ultimately these disorienting dilemmas lead to transformative learning, increased confidence, and cohesion among disciplines. The results of this paper will inform and guide engineering educators in creating interdisciplinary project-based coursework that meets the growing demands of the workplace of today and the future.
Murray, J., & Cuen Paxson, L., & Seo, S., & Beattie, M. (2020, June), STEM-Oriented Alliance for Research (SOAR): An Educational Model for Interdisciplinary Project-based Learning Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35206
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