Interdisciplinarity in design education: understanding the undergraduate student experience

  • James A. SelfEmail author
  • Joon Sang Baek


Interdisciplinarity is becoming a critical issue of concern for design schools across East Asia in their attempts to provide industry graduates with the skills and competences to make creative contributions in a global economy. As a result, East Asian higher education institutions are aggressively endeavouring to provide interdisciplinary undergraduate curriculum that combine traditional designerly skills with engineering knowledge and methods. The current study takes an interdisciplinary undergraduate course as case-study to examine how the pedagogic strategy of team teaching influences student learning experience. Two surveys of student learning were conducted for this research purpose. The first provided an indication of the holistic student learning experience, while the second explored the conditions of team and non-team teaching as influence upon learning experiences specifically. Results showed how students taught by a single instructor provided a more positive overall opinion of course quality and experienced significantly more encouragement to participate compared to team taught respondents. However, findings also indicated how team teaching significantly increased the students’ experience of a balanced contribution from different disciplinary perspectives and how the team teaching approach was significantly more effective in providing students with greater opportunities to understand the relevance of the different disciplines to the course subject. We conclude with a discussion of results in terms of the effective use of team teaching at undergraduate level as strategy for interdisciplinary learning experiences.


Interdisciplinarity Student experience Team teaching Design thinking 



We would like to extend our gratitude to all the students who took the time to respond to our call for participation and our institution in supporting opportunities for interdisciplinarity to prosper. This work was supported by the UNIST Creative and Innovative Project fund 1.150129.01.


  1. Adams, R. S., Turns, J., & Atman, C. J. (2003). Educating effective engineering designers: The role of reflective practice. Design Studies, 24(3), 275–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Affairs, Educational. (2013). UNIST 2013 course catalog. In UNIST (Ed.), Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST).Google Scholar
  3. Carulli, M., Bordegoni, M., & Cugini, U. (2013). An intergrated framework to support design & engineering education. International Journal of Engineering Education, 29(2), 291–303.Google Scholar
  4. Jaeger, A., Mayrhofer, W., Kuhlang, P., & Matyas, K. (2013). Total immersion: Hands and heads-on training in a learning factory for comprehensive industrial engineering education. International Journal of Engineering Education, 29(1), 23–32.Google Scholar
  5. Kang, N. (2008). Activation plan for the convergence study of scientific technology & humanities and social sciences. Ministry of education, science and technology.Google Scholar
  6. Kaygan, P. (2014). ‘Arty’ versus ‘Real’ work: Gendered relations between industrial designers and engineers in interdisciplinary work settings. The Design Journal, 17(1), 73–90. doi: 10.2752/175630614X13787503069990.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Kim, K., Kim, N., Jung, S., Kim, D. Y., Kwak, Y., & Kyung, G. (2012). A radically assembled design-engineering education program with a selection and combination of multiple disciplines. International Journal of Engineering Education, 28(4), 904–919.Google Scholar
  8. Klein, J., & Newell, W. (1998). Advancing interdisciplinary studies. In W. Newell (Ed.), Interdisciplinarity: Essays from the literature. New York: College Entrance Examination Board.Google Scholar
  9. Kolb, D. (2014). The structure of knowledge experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (2nd ed., pp. 153–192). New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc.Google Scholar
  10. Lattuca, L. (2001a). Considering interdisciplinarity creating interdisciplinarity: Interdisciplinary research and teaching among College and University faculty. New York: Vanderbilt University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Lattuca, L. R. (2001b). Creating interdisciplinarity: Interdisciplinary research and teaching among college and University faculty. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Lattuca, L, & Knight, D. (2010). AC 2010-1537: In the eye of the beholder: Defining and studying interdisciplinarity in engineering education.Google Scholar
  13. Lattuca, L., Knight, D., & Bergom, I. (2013). Developing a measure of interdisciplinary competence. International Journal of Engineering Education, 29(3), 726–739.Google Scholar
  14. Lattuca, L. R., Voight, L. J., & Fath, K. Q. (2004). Does interdisciplinarity promote learning? Theoretical support and researchable questions. Review of Higher Education, 28(1), 23-C.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lee, J. (2014). The integrated design process from the facilitator’s perspective. International Journal of Art and Design Education, 33(1), 141–156. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-8070.2014.12000.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Mansilla, V., & Duraising, E. (2007). Targeted assessment of students’ interdisciplinary work: An empirically grounded framework proposed. The Journal of Higher Education, 78(2), 215–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Mansilla, V., & Gardner, H. (2003). Assessing interdisciplinary work at the frontier: An empirical exploration of “symptoms of quality”. In G. Origgi & C. Heintz (Eds.), Rethinking interdisciplinarity. Cambridge: Harvard University.Google Scholar
  18. Mendoza, H. R., Bernasconi, C., & MacDonald, N. M. (2007). Creating new identities in design education. International Journal of Art and Design Education, 26(3), 308–313. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-8070.2007.00541.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Mok, Y. H. (2009). Korea education in the age of knowledge convergence. Paper presented at the autumn conference of Korean educational research association.Google Scholar
  20. Newell, W. (2001). A theory of interdisciplinary studies. Issues in Integrative Studies, 19, 1–25.Google Scholar
  21. Norman, D. (2010) Why Design Education Must Change. Core77, Retrieved from
  22. Norman, D, & Klemmer, S. (2014). State of design: How design education must change. Retrieved from
  23. Oehlberg, L., Leighton, I., & Agogino, A. (2012). Teaching human-centred design innovation across engineering, humanities and social sciences. International Journal of Engineering Education, 28(2), 484–491.Google Scholar
  24. Repko, A. (2012). Interdisciplinary research: Process and theory (2nd ed.). New York: SAGE Publications Inc.Google Scholar
  25. Strong, D. (2012). An approach for improving design and innovation skills in engineering education: The multidisciplinary design stream. International Journal of Engineering Education, 28(2), 339–348.Google Scholar
  26. Suh, S. G., & Park, S., J. (2009). The Korean Government’s Policies and Strategies to Foster World-Class Universities. In Cheng, Y., Wang, Q. & Nian, C., L. (Eds.), How World-Class Universities Affect Global Higher Education. (pp. 65–83). Rotterdam: SensePublishes.Google Scholar
  27. The Korean Ministy of Education, Science and Technology. (2008). World Class University Project.Google Scholar
  28. Thompson, M. (2009). Increasing the rigor of freshman design education. Paper presented at the iasdr09, Seoul. Accessed 15 Jan 2015.
  29. Thompson, M. K. (2009). ED100: Shifting paradigms in design education and student thinking at KAIST. Paper presented at the CIRP design conference 2009.Google Scholar
  30. Tolbert, D., & Daly, R. (2013). First-year engineering student perceptions of creative opportunities in design. International Journal of Engineering Education, 29(4), 879–890.Google Scholar
  31. Yim, H, Lee, K, Brezing, A, Lower, M, & Feldhusen, J. (2011). Learning from an interdisciplinary and intercultural project-based design course. Paper presented at the international conference on engineering and product design education, City University, London, UK.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Design and Human EngineeringUNISTUlsanRepublic of Korea

Personalised recommendations