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Authenticity ahead of interdisciplinarity – a scoping review of student experiences in interdisciplinary science projects

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Version 2 2023-05-30, 02:26
Version 1 2023-05-30, 02:23
journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-30, 02:26 authored by Elisa BoneElisa Bone, Joanne Hart

Interdisciplinary projects are reported to facilitate the development of both disciplinary and

generic skills. They vary in their design and implementation, but the effectiveness of different

project models has not been studied. The aim of this study was to determine student

satisfaction, engagement with learning and development of employability skills across

interdisciplinary projects with different delivery models.

This scoping review appraises interdisciplinary projects implemented in science-based

undergraduate degree programs. Projects with varying models of delivery, interdisciplinarity,

authenticity and external partner involvement were examined, and the reported student

learning and satisfaction ratings compared. Descriptive statistics and cross tabulation using

Fisher’s Exact test were used to analyse the data.

The interdisciplinary project model had little effect on engagement with learning, but student

satisfaction improved if the project task was rated as authentic (p<0.05). Improved learning

was reported in about half of the projects reviewed. Improved employability was reported in

projects where students used discipline-based skills to provide a consultancy (p<0.05), and

those where an external partner was involved (p<0.05).

The interdisciplinary project model did not affect disciplinary or employability skill

development, apart from interdisciplinary competence, which was significantly improved in a

truly interdisciplinary project (p<0.01). Interpersonal skill development was significantly

improved where projects had integrated rather than sequential tasks (p<0.05).

Overall, interdisciplinary projects that were authentic and/or involved an external partner

generated better student satisfaction and real-world experience. These results inform the

future design of interdisciplinary project-based learning tasks and encourage involvement of

external partners in project design and delivery.

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