A Successive Approach to Multidisciplinary Teamwork in Undergraduate Design Education: From Dysfunctional to Functional Teams

Katja Fleischmann


The broadening scope of design is changing ways of engaging with stakeholder groups outside the design disciplines. The multidiscipline collaborative space is acknowledged as being essential for design students to experience whether in practical terms in a design project or when engaging in research-based inquiry. While more research is now available introducing various aspects of successful collaborations in design education there is still a lack of studies that explore how multidisciplinary teamwork can be introduced in undergraduate design education in practical terms. This paper reports on the introduction of a successive approach to multidisciplinary teamwork in an undergraduate media design degree. It provides unique insights on practical implications when preparing design students for a multidisciplinary and collaborative work environment in the workplace. The study explores multidisciplinary team functionalities, the effectiveness of the successive approach and hence explores whether changes in students learning occur though introducing students multiple times to multidisciplinary teamwork. A pragmatic research paradigm was applied to this study which reports on a three-year trial. Perspectives from 235 second and third year media design students who participated in three multidisciplinary subjects are explored. Media design students were surveyed anonymously, using online questionnaires that collected quantitative and qualitative data. Findings suggest that through building on each learning experience students develop greater confidence to participate in multidisciplinary collaborations and learn to work with challenging people. Although some media design students felt they had been part of a dysfunctional team, it was the minority of students across the three subjects.

Keywords: multidisciplinary collaboration, teamwork, undergraduate design education

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ISSN 2224-6061 (Paper) ISSN 2225-059X (Online)

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