N. Rojo, Z. Gómez-de-Balugera, G. Gallastegui, D. Encinas, N. Durana

University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) (SPAIN)
Non-technical skills (frequently called “soft skills” or “21st century skills”) are nowadays equally or even more highly valued than technical skills in staff selection processes and recruitment of new employees. Therefore, soft skills feature among the expected outcomes from the university curriculum. These skills are usually introduced by embedding them in existing technical subjects; that is, students develop non-technical skills in parallel to the acquisition of technical knowledge. One of the main drawbacks of this implementation model is that students tend to relate only with their fellow classmates and, therefore, skills involving interaction with students from different fields of knowledge are difficult to improve. The current framework can be expanded by enabling workspaces which foster the interrelationship between students of different degree and academic courses, and call upon highly demanded skills, such as team-working, oral expression or the capacity to work in multidisciplinary environments.

In the specific field of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), the ability to work in multidisciplinary teams is a crucial soft skill. In order to bring the academic world closer to professional practices, a multidisciplinary activity entitled “knowledge and experiences sharing multidisciplinary activity” (including students from different centres and degree courses) was designed and implemented by the teaching team for three EIA subjects taught in three different bachelor degrees at the Alava Campus of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). The same Collaborative Project-Based Learning (CPBL) activities are carried out in the three selected subjects, this being the common characteristic of all the students attending the multidisciplinary activity.

The multidisciplinary activity was developed in two phases: 1) a “self-reflection session” in which students reflected on their strengths and weaknesses in the EIA field, and 2) a “knowledge and experiences sharing multidisciplinary session” devoted to the promotion of synergies between students with different backgrounds. Students delivered two documents per group and an individual satisfaction survey, which were analysed by the teaching staff in order to evaluate the success of the action proposed and to suggest improvements for future events.

Attendance to the multidisciplinary activity was high (66% of the enrolled students attended), despite it being voluntary and the timeframe of Phase 2 not coinciding with the regular schedule of classes when the students are on campus. According to the satisfaction survey, students considered that these kind of activities add value to university subjects (> 4 points out of 5 were given by 61% of the audience regarding this question) and they showed their willingness to take part in similar technical workshops (5 points out of 5 were awarded by 32% of the audience regarding this question).

The accomplishment of this activity was challenging for both the students and the teaching staff involved. Nevertheless, it was a unique interaction opportunity for the students’ development and, therefore, the knowledge sharing activity will be improved and repeated in future courses.