Design of transformative education and authentic learning projects: Experiences and lessons learned from an international multidisciplinary research and education program on flood risk reduction

Yoonjeong Lee, Baukje Bee Kothuis, Antonia Sebastian, Sam Brody

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articleScientificpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
34 Downloads (Pure)


As there is increasing emphasis on transformative education and authentic learning in interdisciplinary research projects, it is meaningful to investigate how to effectively design a multidisciplinary research and education program to ensure beneficial outcomes for participating students. This is especially important for ocean and coastal engineering programs that are likely the most multidisciplinary engineering programs. The NSF PIRE Coastal Flood Risk Reduction Program is an international place and problem-based research education program in which students conduct case studies across the Houston-Galveston metropolitan area in the U.S. and in the Netherlands. There are three to four designated case studies (place-based) annually in each country, covering both surge-based and precipitation-driven flood problems (problem-based). From 2016 to 2018, there were three student research trips to the Netherlands (one each year, after the spring semesters). A total of 42 U.S. students, graduate and undergraduate were selected from four participating U.S. campuses apply for a designated Dutch case study. The three to four case studies change every year. Students from diverse disciplines, including engineering, planning, economics, hydrology, biology, architecture, geography, communications, and computational hydraulics, interested in flood risk reduction can apply. Those accepted into the Program are placed in interdisciplinary research teams composed of 5-6 students: 1-2 PhD, 2-3 Masters, and 2-3 undergraduate students. The teams are guided by project faculty mentors from both U.S. and Dutch partner institutions. A two-week long research trip to the Netherlands provides transformative education and an authentic learning environment through field trips, meetings with Dutch flood experts, lectures, and participation in design workshops. Students are required to present their research work three times while they are in the Netherlands: 5-minute research plan; 10-minute research progress; and 15-minute final presentation. By preparing these presentations, students learn how to collect data, interview stakeholders, lead/participate in brain-storming discussions, and adjust/improve their research products. Students also learn how to interact with people from different disciplines and look at the issues from diverse perspectives. This article describes the design process of the Program, from initial development through implementation. Reflections and lessons learned from the first three years of the Program are shared.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2019
Event126th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Charged Up for the Next 125 Years, ASEE 2019 - Tampa, United States
Duration: 15 Jun 201919 Jun 2019

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