Interdisciplinary Engineering Education

Guidelines for course design


To face the more complex societal challenges, interdisciplinary education is necessary instead of the usual disciplinary approach. However there are few practical guidelines on which to build interdisciplinary engineering curricula. We look at what we can learn from emerging practices at TU Delft. An interdisciplinary framework was used, validated in 4TU context, conceptualising constructive alignment between the educational vision, operationalised into pedagogical approaches and facilitated by support structures. All indicators for the analysis of educational design. Nineteen, qualitative, semi-structured interviews were conducted with programme coordinators/ lecturers of courses described as interdisciplinary. Interviews were transcribed and coded using a qualitative research software package.


This study aims to provide guidelines for the design of interdisciplinary courses. 


Prelimary results of 7 interviews, indicate that interviewees struggle what interdisciplinarity is (vision) and how to design such a course.  Cognitive and collaboration skills are deemed necessary, but assessment thereof is unclear (education). Facilitation is hampered by the decentralised structure of the institute. Further analysis of the data is needed to provide clear guidelines for course design.


- Valuing contributions to interdisciplinary teaching and researching in terms of appraisal, allotted time and budget, would boost the results of and willingness to adapt interdisciplinary ways of working.

- Non-departmental budgets which are available for interdisciplinary teaching and research could sustain the development of innovative solutions.

- A vision on what interdisciplinarity should be at an institutional level, helps the development of appropriate policy measures to sustain interdisciplinary teaching and learning.

- Different Science fields bring different problem solving strategies to the table; e.g.  technical fields focus on analytical and practical results, natural science focus on scientific substantiation and modelling, social field on writing skills and philosophical reasoning, and the design field focuses on problem definition, dealing with ambiguity and visual representations.

- Interdisciplinary skills are particularly framed as group management and communications skills, the ability to integrate different disciplines and reduce complexity, using relevant information sources, process approaches, etc.

- Interdisciplinarity is not an aim in itself, it is subservient to solving problems in the best possible way and sometimes it helps to do this with an interdisciplinary approach


REES  2019 –  Klaassen, R., de Fouw, N., Rooij, R., & van der Tang, Y. (2019). Perceptions of Interdisciplinary Learning: A qualitative approach. In B. Kloot (Ed.), Proceedings of the 8th Research in Engineering Education Symposium, REES 2019 - Making Connections (pp. 398-407). Research in Engineering Education Network.

CDIO 2020 – de Fouw, N.J. , Klaassen R.G, van der Tang, Y. (2020), Prerequisites for interdisciplinary Learning: Organisation and Staff, 16th CDIO conference (online), 


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Nanneke de Fouw:

Renate Klaassen:


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