The experiences of engineering students working in multi-disciplinary project teams

Ramachandran, Sivakumar, Jeschawitz, Timm and Cullinane, Denis (2011) The experiences of engineering students working in multi-disciplinary project teams. [Conference Proceedings]


Team based student assignments are welcomed by many students and educators in the broad aims of providing a social element to studies, development of inter-personal skills and co-operative management of time and resources. Once the social and co-operative framework of team-working is established in the cohort of a third level programme, the group is able to further enhance its co-operative skills by working with students from another discipline. This added dimension broadens the expectations and attitudes of each individual cohort, preparing them for ‘real-world’ interaction involving the development of understanding of each other’s perspectives, and negotiation between all those in the multi-disciplinary team. Such skills are invaluable for graduates who are increasingly required to work alongside others with a variety of skills and backgrounds.For many reasons, the students' experience of working in multi-disciplinary teams can be positive, rewarding and challenging as well as negative, stressful and without any perceived benefit. Whilst the personality of the student plays an important part in this highly subjective process, once the working protocols have been established, students can participate on a more objective basis and together these teams can deliver their work on time to a high level of satisfaction.This paper draws on three years' experience in the collaboration of third level engineering students in Audio-Visual Media Technology with honours business students in Arts Management at the Institute of Art, Design and Technology in fulfilling the briefs of clients both within the institute and in such arenas as theatres, music groups, art galleries and media enterprises.Case studies of individual students are analysed, and recourse is made to established educational models and best practice. The paper will identify the generic strategies that students use to manage the uncertainties in working in a multi-disciplinary arena, including the interactions with external clients and facilitators.

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