Addressing biomedical problems through interdisciplinary learning: A feasibility study

Cantillon-Murphy, P., McSweeney, J., Burgoyne, L., O'Tuathaigh, C. and O'Flynn, S. (2015) Addressing biomedical problems through interdisciplinary learning: A feasibility study. pp. 282-291. ISSN 0949149X (ISSN)


Interdisciplinary learning is often limited to student groups which already have significant overlap in either their curricular content or whose day-to-day duties entail regular interactions. This is not generally the case for engineers and clinicians, and almost never the case for students of engineering and medicine. In this feasibility study, interdisciplinary learning outcomes were assessed in six teams comprising undergraduate engineering and medical students at a major Irish university. Three key factors differentiated the current study from complimentary approaches; (i) the module places undergraduate medical and engineering students in interdisciplinary teams, (ii) students are educated in a systematic methodology (TRIZ) of design and innovation, which is then applied to a clinical challenge and (iii) the present study places student learning outcomes as the primary mission of the module, rather than the project deliverables. Feedback from both students and clinical mentors was assessed using focus groups and individual interviews. The learning outcomes were convincingly imparted as evidenced by feedback, which was overwhelmingly positive from both students and clinicians. As an added benefit, the tangible outputs (e.g., prototype or software tool) from each of the 6 teams represented a worthy proof-of-concept, in some cases suitable for future research or commercial exploitation. This initial feasibility study highlights the potential benefits of a new structured methodology in to solving clinical problems in the context of interdisciplinary learning.

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