Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching: Frameworks and Practice Conference, Sheffield, United Kingdom, 07 April 2016
Recently we witness a rising interest in interdisciplinary collaboration in both industrial design and engineering education. This interest is triggered by the observation that professionals who do not experience interdisciplinary cooperation during undergraduate education find it challenging to work with people from other disciplines. Considering that developing technology and innovation invites more complex design problems which are often beyond the professional skills and competences of a single person, learning how to work in interdisciplinary teams becomes a central concern within the undergraduate programs of these fields. This paper focuses on peer learning as an important aspect of interdisciplinary design teams in the context of extra-curricular education activities. The empirical data comes from the accounts of 42 undergraduate and postgraduate students who participated in the Interdisciplinary Design Studio (IDS), which is the first educational activity organised by Middle East Technical University Design Factory in October 2015. In IDS, students from the Departments of Industrial Design, Architecture, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Business Administration came together in six interdisciplinary teams to develop innovative products following the stages of a design process. Throughout the four-week IDS, students presented their work to and got feedback on their projects from an interdisciplinary team of tutors, which consists of faculty members from Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Architecture, and Faculty Economic and Administrative Sciences. Drawing on the semi-structured interviews with the students, this paper presents a comparison between learning from peers versus learning from tutors, highlighting that students foreground the former over the latter as a more effective way of learning about interdisciplinarity.