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CBL Webinar: Interdisciplinarity and leadership in engineering education – is challenge-based and project-based learning a solution?

donderdag 23 mei 2024 / 09.30 - 11.00
Interdisciplinarity and leadership in engineering education – is challenge-based and project-based learning a solution?

In this webinar, we will give three short presentations to start discussions on how engineering education can respond to the integration of interdisciplinary project learning and leadership?

We will start out with the question Why interdisciplinary competences?

Dennis Friederichsen asks in his research the question: Are interdisciplinary competences essential for early career engineers? Experiences from work is a powerful argument for change in engineering education (EE). We have interviewed young Danish engineers about their experiences – and we found that interdisciplinarity and boundary crossing are essential competences. We will be presenting some of the theoretical approach and the qualitative data collected from several companies in Denmark.

We will continue with short presentation on how leadership and interdisciplinarity are related by Henrik Worm Routhe. Management and leadership are important engineering competences that are needed in the work with complex problem solving in an interdisciplinary context. Based on data from interdisciplinary system projects and literature review, the complexity of different leadership concepts is discussed with point of departure in qualitative data collected from different project types at Aalborg University both at the faculty level and the student level.

And we will end by the question: Can CBL and PBL be a response to an increasing need for interdisciplinarity in education? Anette Kolmos will present a new model for interdisciplinary projects to create more awareness of how challenge based and project based learning can deliver some of the responses. However, we need a model of variation in the application of projects. The model is based on two dimensions: a) the complexity of teams, and b) the integration in interdisciplinarity, ranging from disciplinary projects to broad interdisciplinary projects. This results in the identification of six different project types which we will present. The project types embrace both single-team projects and larger projects consisting of multiple teams working together on complex problems.

After the presentations, we want to discuss:

-          Do you find similar results from studies on young engineers, if there are any of these studies?

-          How do you foster leadership competences in your EE? Do you combine it with interdisciplinary learning?

-          Can you identify any of the project types which are presented and do you have similar experiences? The project types correspond to practices at Aalborg University.

We look forward to sharing our findings and thoughts, and welcome the opportunity to learn from the Dutch context and share perspectives that will benefit us all.  


Interdisciplinary project types in engineering education, 2023

Students’ learning of management and leadership in engineering education, 2024

Reframing Engineering Education – Springer, 2024


Dennis Friedrichsen is a postdoc at Aalborg University in the InterPBL research group. He earned his PhDsumma cum laude at Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany. His current research area is engineering education with a particular focus on interdisciplinarity, competencies, employability, and engineering practice. Dennis has also worked in both the private and public sector in several countries before earning his PhD, and he has for several years been involved with the educational system.     

Henrik Worm Routhe. Graduated as M. Electronics Engineering in 1989 from Aalborg University and as Diploma in Business Administration (Organization) from Aalborg University in 1999. He is currently employed as PhD fellow at the Aalborg Centre for Problem Based Learning in Engineering Science and Sustainability under the auspices of UNESCO. Prior to entering research in 2016, he has 30 years of experience as engineer, project manager, consultant and director at a vocational school. His current research interests are focused on engineering education research and more specifically in knowledge transformation, interdisciplinarity, organization, leadership, project management and PBL competencies.

Anette Kolmos is Professor in Engineering Education and PBL, Founding Director (Director 2014-2023) for the UNESCO category 2 Centre: Aalborg Centre for Problem Based Learning in Engineering Science and Sustainability. She was Chair holder for UNESCO in Problem Based Learning in Engineering Education, Aalborg University, Denmark, 2007-2014. Guest professor at KTH Royal Institute of Technology 2012-2017.  President of SEFI 2009–2011 (European Society for Engineering Education). Founding Chair of the SEFI-working group on Engineering Education Research. Was awarded the IFEES Global Award for Excellence in Engineering Education, 2013, the SEFI fellowship in 2015, and the SEFI Leonardo da Vinci medal in 2023.