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The Da Vinci project

01 May 2019

The Da Vinci project

This project develops and pilots a new, selective course for 3rd-year Bachelor students. Students are challenged to experiment with crossing the boundaries between scientific disciplines and work on real-life sustainability-related challenges with the involvement of stakeholders.

The Da Vinci project – Introduction

Background

Sustainable development and the related strive to make economies circular are grand challenges our world currently faces. In order to reach these targets, theoretical and practical insights from multiple scientific disciplines need to be combined and integrated to create innovative solutions. Moreover, only input from all relevant stakeholders will ensure that solutions are practically feasible and will be steadily implemented in our society. The students of today will be crucial to realizing this inevitable transition. However, students who currently leave university are often ill-prepared for this role. They rarely venture outside of their own faculty (e.g., 70% of students only take courses within their own faculty at Utrecht University (UU); Romijn et al., 2017). Students agree that they do not interact enough with the world outside universities (ISO, 2015). Moreover, they are only moderately satisfied with their preparation to the labor market (National Student Survey for UU: 3.21, compared to e.g. 3.74 for academic skills). We need to train a new generation of true connectors: students who, based on their strong disciplinary knowledge, create innovative solutions with (multiple) stakeholders, combining different disciplines.

Project description and goals

In The Da Vinci Project students are challenged to experiment with crossing the boundaries between scientific disciplines and work on real-life sustainability-related challenges with the involvement of stakeholders. A new, selective 7,5 EC course for 3rd-year Bachelor students will be developed and piloted. Via an active learning-by-doing approach (Baepler et al., 2016), we will train students to collaborate transdisciplinary, thereby broadening their horizon and teaching connecting skills that are hard to acquire in a normal academic environment.

Six groups of five students originating from different scientific backgrounds work together on a specific sustainable development-related challenge provided by an external partner, ranging from private sector (e.g. VNCI, MBK-NL or VNO NCW) to local and national governments (e.g. municipality Utrecht and Ministry of EZK).  The groups will work on their challenges for 10 weeks. To support them, students will follow online modules, workshops, and masterclasses.

Expected results

The course will strengthen three competences of students: social responsibility, effective communication and problem solving.

The students will:

  1. learn about specific sustainability challenges from different theoretical and practical perspectives (e.g. Boyle, 2012);
  2. learn how to solve problems with external parties, in co-creation with those parties (i.e. working on authentic assignments; e.g. Brown et al., 1989);
  3. learn how to combine:
    1. insights from different scientific disciplines;
    2. theory and practice, doing justice to each of these perspectives and combining them (i.e. interdisciplinary education, e.g. Repko, 2008);
  4. learn about “Design Thinking” as an approach to create innovative solutions to complex problems (e.g. Liedtka et al., 2017).

Related

References

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