Instructional Science

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 457–488 | Cite as

The hard work of soft skills: augmenting the project-based learning experience with interdisciplinary teamwork

  • Jane S. Vogler
  • Penny Thompson
  • David W. Davis
  • Blayne E. Mayfield
  • Patrick M. Finley
  • Dar Yasseri


This two-year qualitative study explored the learning process alongside students’ perceived outcomes within an interdisciplinary project-based learning (PjBL) task. Students from three different undergraduate courses were assigned a project that spanned across all three classes and placed student teams in the roles of client and contractor. Content analysis of reflective journals and focus groups provided a rich view of the learning experience from the student perspective. Findings from Year 1 demonstrated ways in which students had employed soft skills (e.g., communication, collaboration), but also revealed the need for changes to the course design to fully realize the interdisciplinary vision of the project. Findings from Year 2 showed how students negotiated the realistic tensions of the client-contractor relationship while working to develop both soft skills and hard skills (e.g., programming, design, market research). Overall, this study reveals how the interdisciplinary nature of this project supported important aspects of student learning that might not have occurred through a more traditional class project. In addition, it sheds light on the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration among instructors when designing a PjBL experience that pushes students to crosses disciplinary boundaries.


Project-based learning Interdisciplinary Soft skills Communication Design-based research 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane S. Vogler
    • 1
  • Penny Thompson
    • 2
  • David W. Davis
    • 3
  • Blayne E. Mayfield
    • 4
  • Patrick M. Finley
    • 5
  • Dar Yasseri
    • 6
  1. 1.Oklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA
  2. 2.Oklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA
  3. 3.Oklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA
  4. 4.Oklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA
  5. 5.Virginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  6. 6.Oklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA

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