Helping students choose a course within interdisciplinary education

22 February 2024

Educational project

Helping students choose a course within interdisciplinary education

This project aims to develop a tool to assist students in choosing elective courses in an interdisciplinary context.


Dynamics of Youth offers the minor ‘Interdisciplinary perspectives on child development in societal challenges’, in which students learn to collaborate in interdisciplinary teams. Furthermore, students learn to detect and contribute relevant knowledge and skills to societal problems related to child development. Within the minor, students take two compulsory interdisciplinary courses to broaden their view and acquire interdisciplinary skills. In addition, they select two elective courses in a discipline other than their own, with the goal to deepen disciplinary knowledge and skills relevant for interdisciplinary projects. However, students likely need help in choosing the elective courses.

Project description

Part 1.a. Selection of reasons: Based on interviews with UCU tutors and students from one of the compulsory minor courses, we selected 41 reasons that students express to choose a course.

Part 1.b. Weight of reasons: using a Q-methodology design, 67 students sorted the reasons from “most disagree” to “most agree”. Using Ken Q-Analysis*, we performed a factor analysis to extract so-called composite Q-sorts representing how students sorted the reasons.

Part 2. Design and test an online tool. This part is currently in progress


This project aims to design a tool to help students choose an elective course in an interdisciplinary context. To this aim, we answer the following research questions in a two-part project:

Part 1. What are the reasons students have for taking specific courses, and what is the weight of each reason compared to the others?

Part 2. How can we guide students in choosing elective courses?


The analyses revealed two factors. The first factor represents reasons that could be summarized as related to broadening a view, and impactful education related to societal issues. The second factor represents reasons that could be summarized as deepening and applying knowledge, on topics that fit one’s personality and interests. Furthermore, both factors included the reason that a course should deal with a topic of interest to the student. More students loaded primarily on the first than on the second factor.


Part 1: The results indicate that two groups of students express different reasons as most important in choosing a course: students look for broadening and impactful courses, or for courses that deepen their knowledge and relate to one’s personality. In addition, all students find it important that the topic of the course is of interest to them.

Part 2: Based on the results of part 1, we will design an online tool using a discrete choice design. This tool selects the student’s topics of interest, and the reasons to choose a course, and subsequently provides advice for elective courses. This advice functions as a conversation starter that students can discuss in for instance a peer tutoring setting.


*Ken Q-Analysis is a web application for Q methodology designed by Shawn Banasick (


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