Experts in Teamwork - A Large Scale Course for Interdisciplinary Learning and Collaboration

Experts in Teamwork - A Large Scale Course for Interdisciplinary Learning and Collaboration

P. Wallin, R. Lyng, B. Sortland, S. Veine (2017).  Experts in Teamwork - A Large Scale Course for Interdisciplinary Learning and Collaboration. 11.

In 2015, Nature ran a special issue on interdisciplinary research1, highlighting the importance of collaboration across disciplinary boundaries. Around the same time, the UN summarized the challenges that we face as a global society ( All of these challenges require expertise from many different disciplines in order to fully understand and address them. Communicating and collaborating in interdisciplinary settings are key skills we need students to train and master. Experts in Teamwork (EiT) started as an educational development project in 2001 during a large revision of the engineering programs in Norway2. Today, it is a compulsory 7.5 ECTS course for all master degree students at NTNU. Engineering students collaborate on real world problems with students from other, non-engineering, programs, working in interdisciplinary project teams (5-6 students). The learning objectives include the development of personal and interpersonal skills. The underlying educational approach is based on experience based learning and reflections3. In this case study, we first evaluate the continuous development of the EiT course, based on quantitative course evaluation data from 2007-2016. In the second part, we focus on the evaluation data from 2016 (1731 students 86,3% response rate in 73 project villages). In addition, we draw upon the village descriptions to provide qualitative information to interpret some of the quantitative results in a mixed method approach. From the course evaluation data, it is clear that the overall satisfaction with the EiT course has increased over the years. This is discussed in the light of the organisational boundary conditions of the EiT course, and the importance of continuous development. While student satisfaction does not necessarily correlate with learning, there is valuable information to extract from students’ overall perception of a course. The second aspect apparent from the student satisfaction data from 2016 is that there are only small differences in mean student satisfaction, both between the semester-long and the intensive variants of the EiT course, and between students’ disciplines of study. By contrast, there is considerable variation in student satisfaction on the project village level (2.79-4.55 on a scale from 0-5). These differences are explored and discussed further through the qualitative analysis of the project descriptions. In the third and final part of this study, the student perceived relevance of the EiT experience for later work life is examined. Based on the long experience from the EiT course integrated with relevant frameworks from the research literature, we describe and evaluate a large-scale approach to provide students with learning experiences in interdisciplinary settings. The work presented here addresses the CDIO Standards 1, 2, 5, and arguably also CDIO Standard 6.

1. Nature. Mind meld: Interdisciplinary science must break down barriers between fields to build common ground. Nature. 2015;525:8-10. 2. Sortland B. Læringsarena for tverrfaglig samarbeid. Uniped. 2015;38(4):284-292. 3. Andresen L, Boud D, Cohen R. Experience-Based Learning. In: Foley G, ed. Understanding Adult Education and Training. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Paul & Company; 1995:225-239.

Proceedings of the 13th International CDIO Conference in Calgary, Canada, June 18-22 2017

Authors (New): 
Patric Wallin
Reidar Lyng
Bjørn Sortland
Sven Veine
Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway
cooperative learning
generic and transferable skills
Course Development
Interdisciplinary learning
Project-Based Learning
CDIO Standard 2
CDIO Standard 7
CDIO Standard 8
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