Assessment of interdisciplinary competencies

02 October 2023

Educational project

Assessment of interdisciplinary competencies

This project focused on the complexity of assessing interdisciplinary competencies. For the assessment of interdisciplinary competencies, a matrix has been developed with a set of rubrics which can be used and adapted at will by teachers. These rubrics can be used to assess specific skills which are trained in an assignment, a course, a minor or throughout a learning progression ‘interdisciplinarity’ within the context of a disciplinary curriculum. 


The ability to work in multidisciplinary teams is currently seen as an important competency in university education for a variety of reasons:

  1. Academicians and (under)graduate students alike are increasingly involved in trying to solve complex problems our society faces for which cooperation between different disciplines is required;
  2. the areas where two or more disciplines meet are recognized as fields for innovative and fruitful research activities;
  3. working towards interdisciplinary solutions for complex problems stimulates the development of a number of so-called ‘21st century skills’, such as: cooperation & collaborative learning, thinking in a creative & innovative way and critical thinking.

However, within disciplinary curricula students are often not optimally prepared for the complexities of the multi-/ interdisciplinary work field.

Currently, a variety of initiatives within Utrecht University can be identified to close this educational gap, such as the development of interdisciplinary minors, courses and assignments as well as the development of a learning progression ‘interdisciplinarity’ which can be implemented within a disciplinary curriculum. These activities are indeed crucial to meet the needs of future employers who increasingly indicate the necessity of students being able ‘to work and think in an interdisciplinary way’. However, one of the main challenges for interdisciplinary education is the assessment of interdisciplinary competencies. In this respect, educational specialists indicate that the lack of solid (rigorous, thorough) assessment criteria of interdisciplinary (writing)-products may hamper a legitimate way to qualify the achievements of students in interdisciplinary assignments or courses during their university education.

Goals and results

The goals of the project were:

  1. To assess what features are commonly mentioned in different definitions of interdisciplinarity.
  2. Identify interdisciplinary core competencies.
  3. Investigate how these competencies can be assessed.

This resulted in a the report Assessment Interdisciplinary Competencies. In addition, an assessment matrix for interdisciplinary skills and -products is presented, which has been developed within the framework of this project. As it consists of a number of rubrics, teachers can tailor this matrix to the purposes of any course, minor or curriculum at hand, by adapting it to assess the interdisciplinary competencies that are being trained in the relevant assignment(s). In more specific terms, it can be used by teachers and faculties that seek to incorporate interdisciplinary teaching in their courses, helping them to effectively do so.


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