Situativity Approaches for Improving Interdisciplinary Team Processes
McNair, Lisa D.
Dorsa, Edward A.
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Interdisciplinary teaming requires not only multiple levels of expertise but also social competencies gained through interactive contexts. In the classroom, a situativity approach that encourages student engagement can help students learn to value differing perspectives. To foster students’ interdisciplinary collaborative skills, an interdisciplinary capstone design class that brings students and faculty from electrical and computer engineering, industrial design, and marketing was developed and twelve fourth-year students participated (four from each discipline). The students were tasked with designing a next generation firefighter helmet that incorporates innovative computing technology. Various interventions such as learning modules and teaming exercises were implemented throughout the class to help students learn how to communicate across disciplines. Direct observation, interviews, questionnaires, and assessment of course assignments indicated both benefits and limitations of the class. Implications and future directions are also discussed.