The role of educational leadership

Irene Visscher-Voerman*, K.J.P. Brouwer-Truijen, Cindy L. Poortman

*Corresponding author for this work

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


Many Higher Education Institutes intend to implement interdisciplinarity in their engineering programs to help students prepare for future work. Realizing interdisciplinary education is not easy and requires good educational leadership. In former research by Leithwood et al, four broad categories of leadership practices have been identified as important for leadership success: setting direction, developing people, developing the organization, and managing the educational program. In our research, we study the role of educational leadership in designing and implementing interdisciplinary engineering education. Context is the Smart Solution Semester of Saxion University of Applied Sciences, where third-year students from three or more disciplines work together in project teams on large (25 ECTS) projects, provided by research groups and business partners. Research questions are: - How has interdisciplinary engineering education been implemented? - What were leadership behaviors, practices and actions in this process? In the first phase of this qualitative, exploratory project, five key stakeholders, identified as being educational leaders, were interviewed through semi-structured interviews, focusing on the educational leadership practices. All interviews were recorded and written down verbatim. Data were coded and analyzed with Atlas.ti. Findings are that all leadership practices were -though not equally- visible; Implementation success depends on the amount to which the educational change has been a bottom-up initiative; For interdisciplinary work, it is important to get to know each other's discipline, including the structure of underlying knowledge. Students are not supervised in this process, nor are the teachers working together.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSEFI 47th Annual Conference
Subtitle of host publicationVarietas Delectat... Complexity is the New Normality, Proceedings
EditorsBalazs Vince Nagy, Mike Murphy, Hannu-Matti Jarvinen, Aniko Kalman
PublisherSociete Europeenne pour la Formation des Ingenieurs (SEFI)
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9782873520182
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sept 2019
Event47th SEFI Annual Conference 2019: Varietas Delectat: Complexity is the New Normality - Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Budapest, Hungary
Duration: 16 Sept 201919 Sept 2019
Conference number: 47


Conference47th SEFI Annual Conference 2019
Abbreviated titleSEFI 2019
Internet address


  • Curriculum Change
  • Educational Leadership
  • Interdisciplinary Education
  • Leadership Practices


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