Interdisciplinary challenge-based learning: science to society: Science to Society

N. Uthrapathi Shakila*, K. Nizamis, C. L. Poortman, J. T. van der Veen

*Corresponding author for this work

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

    1 Citation (Scopus)
    251 Downloads (Pure)


    There is a growing recognition that the world’s emerging complex problems require perspectives from multiple disciplines to be properly addressed. For higher education, it is imperative to develop well-rounded graduates with both a depth and breadth of knowledge and skills to integrate perspectives across disciplines. A mixed-methods study was conducted to describe the implementation of an interdisciplinary module with students from nine bachelor programs across science, engineering and social sciences who worked on a challenge-based learning assignment. This module involved external partners setting the ‘challenges’, and the student groups worked on devising an interdisciplinary solution. For students, multiple available options for support such as tutors, lecturers and challenge partners were found to be an enabling factor. At the same time, the minimally structured learning activities, and ambiguity of expectations were the limiting factors. At the staff level, the lack of cohesion within the teaching team and minimal support for guiding student groups were limiting factors. In terms of collaboration in the groups, students recognized the role of the other disciplines, improved their communication, and integrated disciplinary knowledge at varying levels. They faced difficulties such as an unequal distribution of workload and disciplinary differences, causing tension. Lastly, the key competencies developed in the module were perspective-taking, communication, collaboration, reflection, and confidence in existing skills and knowledge. Main recommendations for improving the module are scaffolding support for students, developing the interdisciplinary teaching team, and guiding the challenge definition process.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings - SEFI 49th Annual Conference
    Subtitle of host publicationBlended Learning in Engineering Education: Challenging, Enlightening - and Lasting?
    EditorsHans-Ulrich Heiss, Hannu-Matti Jarvinen, Annette Mayer, Alexandra Schulz
    PublisherSociete Europeenne pour la Formation des Ingenieurs (SEFI)
    Number of pages9
    ISBN (Electronic)9782873520236
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2021
    Event49th SEFI Annual Conference 2021: Blended Learning in Engineering Education: challenging, enlightening - and lasting? - Virtual, Berlin, Virtual, Germany
    Duration: 13 Sep 202116 Sep 2021

    Publication series

    NameProceedings - SEFI 49th Annual Conference: Blended Learning in Engineering Education: Challenging, Enlightening - and Lasting?


    Conference49th SEFI Annual Conference 2021
    CityBerlin, Virtual
    Internet address


    • Challenge-based learning
    • Interdisciplinarity
    • Societal problems


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