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Open thinking, networking, and developing joint solutions at HIP

The University's Interdisciplinary Project Week is an established digital format for interdisciplinary collaboration beyond faculty and subject boundaries. Students learn to operate in heterogeneous teams and develop an understanding of methods from other disciplines. Their task is to develop a project idea thematically linked to the respective Science Year. The central element is the methodically guided reflection of the group work process.

In a nutshell: How does the HIP benefit my teaching?

The University’s Interdisciplinary Project Week – HIP for short – offers lecturers in Bachelor’s degree programs of all faculties a well-established and easily accessible digital format for the teaching of the basics of interdisciplinary project work in a practical way. The article provides an overview of the HIP’s structure, procedure, examination, and learning outcomes and invites teachers to participate.

The HIP as part of project-based teaching at TH Cologne

The HIP combines two profiling elements of teaching:

  • Interdisciplinarity – One of the core criteria for the profiles of the university’s degree programs defined in the strategic guidelines for teaching and studying at TH Cologne.
  • Project-based teaching / project week – The project week takes place every semester and is a fundamental structural element of project-based teaching.

The HIP emerged from the ProfiL² concept – projects for inspirational teaching and learning. It can be embedded in the curriculum as a project and offered as a separate course during the project week or integrated as part of a multi-level project spanning a semester. The format is usually recognized with 1.5 credit points.

The HIP was first held in the summer semester of 2014. Starting with around 200 students from four faculties, up to 750 students from all faculties now take part each semester. In 2023, almost 1000 students (600 in the summer semester, around 400 in the winter semester) will develop project ideas on the topic In the Universe of Data: Vulnerability and the Future of data-based societies. They are supported in their learning process by around 100 facilitators and 70 reviewers.

How does the HIP work?

The entire project week takes place digitally. For the students, it begins with a kick-off event via Zoom, in which learning objectives, tasks, and course organization are presented. After the kick-off, the cross-faculty project teams start working in their own Zoom rooms. Students have until Friday morning to develop an interdisciplinary project idea on a globally relevant topic and to present the interdisciplinary work process reflectively. In doing so, they are supported by a trained (student) facilitator. Students receive feedback on their subject content from a tandem of reviewers in the middle of the week. Both the project idea and the results of the reflection are incorporated into the examination at the end of the week. The review team – supported by written individual reflections from the students – hosts the reflection meeting.

What is the HIP’s learning outcome?

Interdisciplinary collaboration during the project week teaches students to work in diverse teams, make decisions, understand the terminology of other disciplines, use different methods, communicate constructively, and work together beyond disciplinary boundaries.

Students demonstrate that they are able to reflect on their independently organized interdisciplinary collaboration by

  • determining requirements and basic guidelines for successful interdisciplinary cooperation,
  • reflecting on the requirements and challenges arising in the work process in daily discussions with the facilitator in preparation for the completion of the project,
  • finally presenting and discussing their group work and learning process based on a self-chosen form of presentation using given key questions.

In addition, students can present a collaboratively developed, well-researched, and justified interdisciplinary project idea by demonstrating that

  • an exclusively interdisciplinary solvable problem was generated from the topic,
  • joint approaches to solutions were developed, effectively discussed, and decided upon,
  • subject-specific perspectives were discussed, and the relevance of each discipline was emphasized,
  • methods of project management and scientific research were applied.
Interdisciplinary project week at the TH Cologne, 2018

Which examinations are taken in the HIP?

Attendance is compulsory at the start of the project, the mid-week meeting, the presentation, and the final reflection. Group members who do not actively participate and/or are absent for more than one day will not pass.

Presentation in German or English that meets the criteria listed on the handout “Development of the project idea”. The presentation provides the basis for subsequent oral feedback (two reviewers and several project groups are present). The presentation contains

  • a list of participants, on which all group members who actively participated in the project work are listed, and
  • a short summary of the project idea, in which the students present the main points of their idea in a continuous text (max. 1500 characters, including spaces).

Individual reflection on interdisciplinary collaboration using the handout “Individual reflection”. This must be submitted in written form and comprise two pages.

Reflection discussion with the reviewer tandems based on a three-minute self-chosen form of presentation (e.g., video, mind map, poster, etc.) on the group work and learning process in the project group.

The examination performance is assessed as “passed” or “failed”. The module is only graded as “passed” if the examination as a whole has been successfully completed. Here you can see an example of the assignment for the summer semester 2023.

What characterizes the process facilitation during the HIP?

As part of the HIP, each project group is supported by a trained facilitator. The facilitator supports the reflection process in the group without providing organizational guidance or influencing the content.

The facilitators are specifically prepared for their tasks in advance. In addition to a comprehensive logbook, which provides methodical tips and impulses for their tasks and their successful fulfillment, they receive qualification training. During the training, the facilitators network with each other, get to know tasks and processes, try out different entry phases, and learn to overcome challenging situations in the group. In addition, teams are formed for peer observation during the project week.

The purpose of peer observation is to give the facilitators an insight into the work of another group and to obtain feedback on their own work. For the subsequent feedback meeting, they receive guidelines. They summarize their findings from the observation in a written reflection and submit this to the HIP team.

During the project week, a THspace moderated by the HIP team is available. Here, the facilitators have the opportunity to clarify questions and provide mutual support. In addition, coordinators are available at any time if support is required. The project week concludes with a joint feedback session with the facilitators.

How can I take part in the HIP?

The development of a scientific understanding and habitus as an important basis for successful interdisciplinary collaboration requires several semesters. For this reason, participation in the project week is generally planned from the fourth B.A. semester onwards. This aims to ensure that the result reflects not only individual but also disciplinary diversity. Students can register via the module coordinators or the respective HIP coordinators of a faculty.

Who organizes the HIP?

The HIP is organized by a cross-faculty team, whose contact persons can be found here.

Who does the HIP cooperate with?

The HIP cooperates permanently with the university library, which offers a digital handbook and information services for students every semester, and the KickStart@TH Cologne initiative, which invites project groups to apply for funding with their project idea. Suitable project ideas are selected by the reviewers. In addition, there have been and continue to be varying content-related collaborations with projects from the university. Examples include the collaboration with the Data Literacy Initiative (DaLI) and the project.

Links & Literature

  • The HIP on the TH Cologne website (German)
  • Science Year
  • Strategic guidelines for teaching and studying at TH Cologne (German)
  • Kaliva, Elisabeth; Meinhardt, Daniela: Kompetenzerwerb in interdisziplinären Projektteams: Die Hochschulweite Interdisziplinäre Projektwoche der TH Köln, Einreichung CfP Konferenz »Zur praktischen Umsetzung der Kompetenzorientierung in Hochschulen« on February 26, 2019 at the TH Cologne.
  • HIP-Koordinationsteam TH Köln: Einreichung Hochschulwettbewerb von Wissenschaft im Dialog im Wissenschaftsjahr 2018 – Arbeitswelten der Zukunft [unveröffentlicht].
  • Gähl, Anna: Konzept der HIP-Prozessbegleitung, Cologne 2023 [unveröffentlicht].

Header-Image: © Rytis/

  • Christoph Kaltscheuer

    Christoph Kaltscheuer M.A. is a research assistant at the Faculty of Information and Communication Sciences at TH Köln. He coordinates the university-wide Interdisciplinary Project Week HIP.

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