Part of the
Centre for
Engineering Education
TU DelftTU EindhovenUniversity of TwenteWageningen University
Centre for
Engineering Education


+31(0)6 48 27 55 61


Project introduction and background information

TU/e innovation Space offers an environment that encourages, stimulates and facilitates students to work in interdisciplinary teams on real-life challenges that directly impact our world (Reymen, 2019). These challenges are often open-ended and ill defined (Gomez Puente, Van Eijck, & Jochems, 2013) and require a shared language for collaboration and interdisciplinarity to facilitate learning processes (Van den Beemt et al., 2020). This language should be shared among stakeholders, including students, teachers, and industry or NGO's. However, little is known about design characteristics that make these challenges work and what should be done to support interdisciplinarity in innovation Space education.

Objective and expected outcomes

This project explores innovation Space challenges with the purpose to find a shared language that supports interdisciplinarity in engineering education. The result is (1) a description of interdisciplinarity in innovation Space education, to be shared with stakeholders, and (2) characteristics of challenge-based learning in innovation Space that support this interdisciplinary engineering education (IEE).

The working definition for interdisciplinarity in education that studies of IEE seem to agree on is that interaction between fields of expertise requires some level of integration between those fields to count as "interdisciplinary" (Klein, 2010). Interdisciplinary interactions can be considered as attempts to address societal challenges by integrating heterogeneous knowledge bases and knowledge-making practices, whether these are gathered under the institutional cover of a discipline or not (van den Beemt et al., accepted). The result, at least in theory, is that participants emerge from such interactions speaking "one language."

Many universities are embracing the concept of 'challenge-based learning' (CBL), to better prepare students to contribute to societal challenges (Tassone et al., 2017). CBL is an interdisciplinary experience where learning takes places through identification, analysis and collaborative design of a sustainable and responsive solution to a real world - authentic - sociotechnical problem (Malmqvist, Radberg, & Lundqvist, 2015). CBL at least involves (1) open ended problems from real world practice that require working in interdisciplinary teams, (2) entrepreneurial acting and design thinking, (3) combining disciplines, and (4) linking curricular and extracurricular activities (Reymen, 2019).

The core research question is: what design characteristics for innovation Space challenges support interdisciplinarity in engineering education?

Given the purpose of this project, this research question can be divided into sub questions:

  • What kind of interdisciplinarity can be found in innovation Space projects and courses?
  • What kind of challenges can be found in innovation Space projects and courses and on what design characteristics do they differ?
  • What motivates students to undertake CBL activities and how do these motives differ per type of student?
  • How does student learning change when challenges are altered to become more interdisciplinary, and while controlling for student motivation?