Teaching Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Learning Barriers and Classroom Strategies

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Educators have known for some time that simply putting students in teams is not sufficient to teach teamwork; instead, students need explicit instruction and guidance in teaming to work effectively. A similar principle applies to interdisciplinary teamwork: putting students in interdisciplinary teams – an increasingly common practice in engineering education – is not sufficient to teach interdisciplinary collaboration. Nor are traditional teaming skills alone enough to enable students to work effectively across interdisciplinary boundaries. This paper addresses this gap in teaching practices by first briefly identifying barriers to students successfully engaging in interdisciplinary collaboration and defining corresponding measurable learning outcomes. It then focuses in detail on teaching practices designed to help students achieve the learning outcomes. These findings have been developed from a multi-case study of interdisciplinary collaboration in a green engineering program that draws students from multiple engineering disciplines as well as business, industrial design, and related fields.

Interdisciplinary, Teamwork, Learning outcomes, Teaching strategies, Disciplinary egocentrism