Industry-linked project work: Interdisciplinarity with design, engineering and management students

C. Johnson, J.T. van der Veen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

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Interdisciplinary education has become a universal trend and a staple feature on most university’s curricula. Its propensity for interaction among disciplines, purportedly endows students with the skills to tackle complex societal issues that haunt our modern society. A mixed-method study was undertaken to describe the challenges faced by both teachers and students in a second-year bachelor module at the University of Twente. The 15 European credits module funnels three separate tracks: Industrial Design Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Engineering Management into an authentic industrial project. Its aim is to foster substantial input from all three specialities in order to solve the proposed problem, and to meet the set learning objectives.
Three issues for students were investigated, (1) communication issues, (2) teamwork problems and (3) prejudices held against the other disciplines. Half of the groups experienced communication issues magnified by the interdisciplinary situation, teamwork issues were present, but were mostly generic and therefore could not be pinned to the interdisciplinary situation alone. Finally, prejudice against disciplines and the feeling of being judged for belonging to a certain discipline was high. Interestingly, the students did not feel that the prejudices inhibited the ability for the team to work together. Teacher challenges included high student numbers and the ripple effects thereof, i.e. time constraints, finding suitable learning spaces, sufficient tutors, etc. These contextual pressures appear to be in direct contrast to the espoused policies of the university. Recommendations on how to mediate some of the issues, such as vigilant alignment of policies to practise and reduction of interdisciplinary knowledge gaps are offered.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEngaging, Engineering, Education
Subtitle of host publicationBook of Abstracts, SEFI 48th Annual Conference University of Twente (online), 20-24 September, 2020
EditorsJan van der Veen, Natascha van Hattum-Janssen, Hannu-Matti Järvinen, Tinne de Laet, Ineke ten Dam
Place of PublicationEnschede
PublisherUniversity of Twente
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)978-2-87352-020-5
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Event48th SEFI Annual Conference on Engineering Education, SEFI 2020 - Online, Enschede, Netherlands
Duration: 20 Sept 202024 Sept 2020
Conference number: 48


Conference48th SEFI Annual Conference on Engineering Education, SEFI 2020
Abbreviated titleSEFI 2020
Internet address


  • Interdisciplinarity
  • Project-based learning
  • Challenges
  • Engineering education


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