Three-Stages of Learning: Team-based Reflection for Improvement in the Performance of Multidisciplinary Teams

Mersha Aftab, Mark Bailey, Chris Jeffs, Nick Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Innovation is rarely the result of a solo act. Indeed, innovation-led organisations are increasingly employing multidisciplinary teams in order to address the most intractable problems. Consequently, universities have developed programmes of study in which students can learn in multidisciplinary teams. One such programme, MA/MSc Multidisciplinary Innovation, at Northumbria University, UK provided the site for this research. This paper explores the subjective factors that influence the individual students’ learning journeys and their impact on team success. The research was conducted by analyzing the performance of multidisciplinary teams involved in different industry-linked projects. This research includes students and academic supervisors as research participants, and uses quantitative and qualitative methods to analyze the data. In the first phase, academic supervisors were interviewed to identify the factors that they thought influenced the performance of multidisciplinary teams. The second phase involved interviewing students, and collection of evidence in support of the factors chosen by the academic supervisors. In the third phase, a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the responses of the students was conducted. The paper proposes a three-stage learning model that engaged students in accelerated learning enabling them to learn the practices of different disciplines. The real value of this learning was seen in the application of these newly acquired practices in the student’s personal context. The paper also identifies the key focus for each of the learning stages, and establishes ‘team based reflection’ as the main ingredient for effective multidisciplinary learning. The paper concludes by considering the implications of these findings for academics planning multidisciplinary learning journeys in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages16
JournalThe International Journal of Design Education
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2015


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