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A case study in developing an interdisciplinary learning experiment between architecture, building construction, and construction engineering and management education

Ahmed K. Ali (Department of Architecture, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 9 July 2019

Issue publication date: 4 September 2019




The purpose of this paper is to highlight the value of interdisciplinary learning specifically in the architecture (ARCH), building construction (BC) and construction management and engineering (CEM) disciplines within the USA’s higher education system. The study attempts to expand the existing literature on integrated design and construction education and offer an alternative model for academic students’ collaboration when restructuring curriculums is not possible in the short term.


The study adopted a qualitative research methodology, which involved designing a structured learning experiment, then followed it with collecting the “lived experience” of 31 participants from three majors according to the institution’s institution review board (IRB) office’s guidelines. The author hypothesized that students from different, but related disciplines working on a real-life project, would better understand the value of each other’s knowledge brought to the teamwork before graduation. The data were analyzed and compared to existing literature on integrated project delivery, and collaborative learning models. Data collection (surveys) was approved by the higher education’s IRB No. 13-021.


Despite the already-existing curriculum obstacles, the majority of students were very pleased with this collaborative experiment. The results confirmed many of the expectations about how students viewed each other’s discipline. The preconceived notions were dissipated at the end of the study, and students expressed more appreciation for each other’s field and expressed interest in learning more about the thought processes of other disciplines.

Research limitations/implications

Typical conflicting academic schedules were the greatest obstacle in this experiment. Architecture students often devote majority of their time to design studios and therefore are unable to fully engage in an integrated capstone project like this one as extracurricular. Because of the chosen research approach, the research results may lack generalizability. Therefore, researchers are encouraged to test the proposed propositions further.

Practical implications

It is possible to develop a successful collaborative experience in the architecture, engineering and construction higher education system without major restructuring of the curriculums. The impact on students’ learning experience is greater than the existing separated education model.


This paper fulfills an identified need to study how integrated design and construction education occurs without creating new dedicated programs or coursework.



The author would like to sincerely thank Professor William Galloway and Dr Walid Thabet for facilitating this pilot experiment, and collaborating on this study, the Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies’ students who participated in this project and Patricia Kio for her help in the data analysis.


Ali, A.K. (2019), "A case study in developing an interdisciplinary learning experiment between architecture, building construction, and construction engineering and management education", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 26 No. 9, pp. 2040-2059.



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