June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
22.1711.1 - 22.1711.26
Working as a Team: Enhancing Interdisciplinarity for the Engineer of 2020For the past few decades, government, business, and professional societies have called forimprovements of engineering education in the United States, leading to revisions of ABET’saccreditation criteria through Engineering Criteria 2000 (Engineering AccreditationCommission, 1998). EC2000’s Criterion 3.d requires all engineering programs to prepareundergraduate engineers to work in multidisciplinary teams. The Engineer of 2020 (NationalAcademy of Engineering, 2004), however, suggests that multidisciplinary teamwork isinsufficient for addressing today’s complex engineering problems. Instead, interdisciplinarythinking and teamwork are needed to address problems that require knowledge from a widerange of disciplines inside and outside engineering and to understand the constraints of socialsystems with varying economic, legal and political dimensions. Although the results of onenational study indicate that students’ teamwork skills have increased, there is little empiricalresearch examining the extent to which students learn to synthesize and use knowledge fromdifferent fields. In this paper, we report findings on the curricular, pedagogical, cultural, andorganizational features that enhance students’ interdisciplinary skills.Interdisciplinarity can be defined as a perspective, practice, or problem-solving approach thatutilizes knowledge and modes of inquiry drawn from more than one disciplinary perspective.Interdisciplinary competence is multidimensional, including an appreciation of disciplinaryperspectives, as well as the abilities to evaluate different disciplinary approaches in problem-solving, to recognize the strengths or weaknesses of one's disciplinary perspective, and toidentify the shared assumptions, skills, or knowledge among disciplines.Findings are drawn from two companion studies that examined curricular, instructional, andorganizational conditions in engineering programs: Prototype to Production: Processes andConditions for Preparing the Engineer of 2020 (P2P) and Prototyping the Engineer of 2020: A360-degree Study of Effective Education (P360). P2P collected data from more than 100engineering programs in 30 four-year engineering schools, while P360 collected qualitative datafrom six case studies to provide specific examples of effective curricular and co-curricularlearning experiences. Case studies were conducted at institutions empirically shown to benational leaders in aspects of undergraduate engineering education. Both studies collected datafrom multiple sources: faculty, program chairs, administrators, and undergraduate engineeringstudents.P2P results show that focusing on interdisciplinary connections in the undergraduate curriculumcan enhance students’ interdisciplinary competence. Controlling for institutional type, size, anddiscipline, three OLS regressions show that an emphasis on “broad perspectives” in engineeringcurricula positively influences multidisciplinary teamwork skills, interdisciplinary teamwork,and interdisciplinary skills.Data from the case studies offers examples of interdisciplinary curricular approaches.Purposefully-designed general education requirements or courses that were joint offerings byfaculty from different disciplines enabled students to explore different perspectives and instillbroad thinking, while general engineering degree programs helped students recognizecomplementary perspectives in solving problems. The case studies also provide examples ofhow interdisciplinary skills are taught in team-based projects that incorporate students fromdisciplines such as business and art. Analyses of the P2P data confirm that using multi- orinterdisciplinary teams in design courses positively influences students’ multidisciplinary teamwork skills, providing empirical support for Borrego and Newswander’s (2010) assertion that interdisciplinarity in science and engineering is operationalized through teamwork. References Borrego, M. & Newswander, L.K. (2010). Definitions of interdisciplinary research: Toward graduate-level interdisciplinary learning outcomes. The Review of Higher Education 34(1), 61-84. Engineering Accreditation Commission. (1998). Engineering criteria 2000: Criteria for accrediting programs in engineering in the United States (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Engineering Accreditation Commission, Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. National Academy of Engineering (2004). The engineer of 2020: Visions of engineering in the new century. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Lattuca, L. R., & Trautvetter, L. C., & Codd, S. L., & Knight, D. B., & Cortes, C. M. (2011, June), Working as a Team: Enhancing Interdisciplinarity for the Engineer of 2020 Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18898
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