What is it about?

This article reports a unique approach to transdisciplinary learning in higher education. It provides details of the design and implementation of an experimental unit of study that bought non-design students into the design studio. It utilises data gathered from those students, alongside teacher observations, to establish the learning benefits of this pedagogical approach.

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Why is it important?

While bringing non-design students into the studio environment is not new, in prior reported examples, students were provided clear expectations for how different disciplines should work together and well-defined assessment tasks. We hypothesised that such reductions of complexity were antithetical to the unique affordances of studio learning, diminishing opportunities for students to develop the very skills required for innovation. Within this unit of study students were provided the agency to define what they thought would be a useful artefact in response to a real-world problem, and to decide how they could best work together in the process of that production. Working together on a shared problem that was beyond the expertise of all three disciplines enabled students to develop the skills to communicate and collaborate across disciplinary boundaries and, perhaps more importantly, to recognise their own disciplinary limitations in the face of complex problems and to actively seek and employ tools from other disciplines in response to those limitations. These are necessary skills for innovation.


This article captures a learning process that was as challenging for the students as for the educators themselves but that also produced substantial learning benefits. We hope this article proves useful for other educators willing to embrace similar levels of complexity within their teaching.

Rebecca McLaughlan
University of Sydney

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Blurring disciplinary boundaries in the design studio: Bringing architecture, business and arts students together to prototype new solutions for palliative care, Journal of Design Business & Society, December 2022, Intellect,
DOI: 10.1386/dbs_00039_1.
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