Cross-disciplinary ways of thinking, acting, and being

“Cross-disciplinary ways of thinking, acting, and being”

Presented By: Robin Adams, Assistant Professor of Engineering Education, Purdue University
Monday, December 6, 2010 from 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Abstract: Engineering is inherently cross-disciplinary. Many complex design problems facing society today require cross-disciplinary approaches that integrate diverse perspectives into a collective whole. Here, the term “cross-disciplinary” is used to characterize a collection of practices such as multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary. These involve thinking and working across technical and non-technical considerations, negotiating among different perspectives and territories of expertise, and innovation and transformative processes. While there have been substantial investments in cross-disciplinary engineering education, the level of empirical attention paid is considerably less than the level of endorsement. As such, there is considerable opportunity for advancing this line of scholarship. This presentation describes the results from a phenomenographic study that investigates critical differences and similarities in the ways people experience cross-disciplinary practice in /engineering contexts/. Rather than focus on group behaviors and outcomes, the motivation for this study was to make visible what individuals in collaborative cross-disciplinary situations come to know (think), learn how to do (act), and see themselves as professionals (be). The ultimate goal of this study is to provide an empirically-based language that can inform the design and assessment of cross-disciplinary learning environments.

Bio: Robin Adams is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She also leads the Institute for Scholarship on Engineering Education (ISEE) as part of the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE). Prior to joining the faculty at Purdue, Dr. Adams was the Assistant Director for Research at the Center for Engineering Learning and Teaching (CELT) and worked with the Engineering Coalition of Schools for Excellence in Engineering Education (ECSEL) in a variety of roles (curriculum design, interdisciplinary program development (engineering and education), program evaluation, and assessment of student learning). She was also a Senior Design Engineer in the semiconductor packaging industry and helped develop new uses of thin film technology. Dr. Adams received her PhD in Education, Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Washington, an MS in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Washington, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Dr. Adams’ research is concentrated on understanding design knowing and learning (particularly iterative cycles in design), interdisciplinary thinking, building capacity in engineering education research, and strategies for connecting research and practice.


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