Higher education is typically compartmentalized by field and expertise level leading to a lack of collaboration across disciplines and reduced interaction among students of the same discipline that possess varying levels of expertise. The divisions between disciplines and expertise levels can be perforated through the use of a concentrated, short-term design problem called a charrette. The charrette is commonly used in architecture and interior design, and applications in other disciplines are possible. The use of the charrette in an educational context provides design students the opportunity to collaborate in teams where members have varying levels of expertise and consult with experts in allied disciplines in preparation for a profession that will expect the same.
In the context of a competitive charrette, this study examines the effectiveness of forming teams of design students that possess a diversity of expertise. This study also looks at the effectiveness of integrating input from professional experts in design-allied disciplines (urban planning, architecture, mechanical and electrical engineering) and a design-scenario-specific discipline (medicine) into the students’ design process. Using a chi-square test of goodness-of-fit, it is possible to determine student preferences in terms of the team configurations as well as their preferences on the experts.
In this charrette context, the students indicated that the cross-expertise student team make-up had a positive effect for both the more experienced students and the less experienced students. Overall, the students placed high value on the input from experts in design-allied fields for the charrette. They also perceived a preference of input from external experts that had an immediate and practical implication to their design process. This article will also show student work examples as additional evidence of the successful cross-expertise collaboration among the design students and evidence of the integration of information from the experts into the design results.