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What Makes A Team “Cross Disciplinary”? Development And Validation Of Cross Disciplinary Learning Measures

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Understanding and Measuring the Impact of Multidisciplinarity

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1370.1 - 15.1370.9



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Paper Authors

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Scott Schaffer Purdue University

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Daniel Gandara Illinois Institute of Technology

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Xiaojun Chen Purdue University

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Margaret Huyck Illinois Institute of Technology

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Jill May Illinois Institute of Technology

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

What makes a Team “Cross-disciplinary”? Development and Validation of Cross-disciplinary Learning Measures


This a progress report on a research project funded by the National Science Foundation to identify or develop, and validate measures of cross-disciplinary team functioning, in order to assess the best practices for developing such competencies. The project is a collaboration of undergraduate, multidisciplinary, service learning, and project based learning programs at four institutions. While a great deal of literature exists related to assessment of team functioning, there is relatively little research on the assessment of cross-disciplinary team learning (CDTL), where team members are presumed to learn to transcend their own disciplinary boundaries, appreciate different frameworks, and (eventually) broaden their perspectives to include those of other disciplines. A basic framework of CDTL was developed based on review of collaborative learning and cross-disciplinary learning literature and interviews and analysis of team member reflections. Best practices related to general competencies were identified, and four major cross- disciplinary learning objectives were derived from this framework. These include: the learner’s ability to self-identify their own skills, knowledge, and potential project contributions; the ability to recognize the potential contributions of others; team members’ collective ability to infuse project design goals and processes with contributions of diverse team members; and team members’ collective understanding of how other disciplines have influenced project outcomes. Initial survey measures of pre-post project confidence levels across these dimensions have been developed and piloted in Fall ’09 semester and all partner programs have been invited to pilot these measures in the Spring ’10 semester. Furthermore, the research team is building upon this framework to validate previous measures and to develop other measures of cross-disciplinary team functioning. Job analysis is being used to identify common themes perceived by current and past participants in a multidisciplinary team project, and by faculty “coaches” and the program supervisors. When themes are identified from the interviews, a survey is created to assess those dimensions. This survey will be piloted and psychometric analyses will be performed to revise the survey before it is offered to the partner university programs. The results provide an additional data point indicating student competency in the skills identified for successful cross-disciplinary team functioning. Finally, the measurement of cross-disciplinary team learning is complex thus a single measure is not sufficient. Since team project learning goals and scope varies widely across institutions there are a great many challenges when conducting this type of assessment. A tool to compile and describe means and methods each partner university is using to assess the defined cross-disciplinary learning objectives has been created. Ideally, this tool can help understand how the context of each program influences how cross-disciplinary teamwork is represented, understood, and assessed. Case study data will be used to describe cross-disciplinary learning within context.


Two independently developed measures of cross-disciplinary team learning are described in this paper. Section I describes an evolutionary research process beginning with validation of a cross- disciplinary team learning (CDTL) theory and framework with CDTL factors embedded within

Schaffer, S., & Gandara, D., & Chen, X., & Huyck, M., & May, J. (2010, June), What Makes A Team “Cross Disciplinary”? Development And Validation Of Cross Disciplinary Learning Measures Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16156

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