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Enabling Interdisciplinarity. Interdisciplinarity Project King’s Learning Institute King’s College, London. The session. Clarify what might be meant by interdisciplinarity Identify the key issues in interdisciplinary practice Audit own organisation’s structures and processes

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enabling interdisciplinarity

Enabling Interdisciplinarity

Interdisciplinarity Project

King’s Learning Institute

King’s College, London

the session
The session
  • Clarify what might be meant by interdisciplinarity
  • Identify the key issues in interdisciplinary practice
  • Audit own organisation’s structures and processes
  • Evaluate their effectiveness
  • Explore costs and benefits of possible alternatives
  • Formulate an action plan
  • Consider issues in the process of change
  • As both teaching and research are increasingly interdisciplinary, how do universities successfully lead and manage this complex process?
  • Effective collaborative relationships hard to establish
  • Structural problems to surmount
  • Socio-cultural and epistemological differences
forms and practices of disciplinarity
Forms and practices of disciplinarity
  • basic characteristics
  • shared theories or ideologies
  • common techniques
  • socio-cultural characteristics (Becher, 1990)
a discipline
A discipline

“ any comparatively self-contained and isolated domain of human experience which possesses its own community of experts”

(Nissani, 1997)

Knowledge, methodology, community


“a means of solving problems and answering questions that cannot be satisfactorily addressed using single methods or approaches” (Klein, 1990)

Requires integration

issues in interdisciplinary work
Issues in interdisciplinary work
  • recruitment
  • motivation
  • communication
  • reward systems
  • management
  • How interdisciplinary is your department?
  • What sort of change would you like to see?
swot analysis
SWOT analysis
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats
  • Interdisciplinary issues at system, institutional, departmental levels
  • Some examples of successful interdisciplinary initiatives / provision
system level funding
System level - funding
  • Difficulties writing interdisciplinary grants
  • Fitting interdisciplinary work into national assessment schemes (RAE in UK)
  • Challenges of aligning interdisciplinary work with national funding councils
institution level recognition
Institution level - recognition
  • Issues with traditional discipline-based reward systems:
    • mode of publication: e.g. government report rather than journal article or book
    • location of publication: generalist rather than specialist journal
    • time frame: interdisciplinary work takes time to develop
    • publication in peer-reviewed journals using unfamiliar literatures

A risky business best left till later?

faculty school department level
Faculty, school, department level
  • Tribal academic disciplines
  • Administrative issues:
    • finance
    • course registration
    • time-tabling
    • computer systems
  • “It is quite difficult to teach interdisciplinary courses … with different timetables, for instance, or different habits, different expectations, different cultures, perhaps of contact, or different entry level requirements.”
  • Interdisciplinary work challenged by practices
    • lack of culture of going outside one’s own department
    • current academic fads and trends
    • budget crunches
  • Administration often organised on disciplinary and departmental lines
    • financial and prestige awards
    • course scheduling
    • computer systems
promoting interdisciplinary work
Promoting interdisciplinary work
  • Promotion and tenure criteria important for early career academics
  • Linking academics with similar interests
    • Internal research databases
    • “Find an Expert”
  • Ability to go sideways in the university and maintain status is crucial for all academics

Small Group then Whole Group

  • Identify a change that you would like to see.
  • Decide what success would look like.
  • Report back
force field analysis
Force field analysis
  • Identify a desired change
  • Undertake a force field analysis
  • How might the change be accomplished?
Increase ?

Reduce ?

stakeholder analysis
Stakeholder Analysis



to convince









  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • What do they want?
  • How can this be accommodated / dealt with?
management style
Management Style

Tight Policy Definition



Tight Control

Loose Control



Loose Policy Definition

management style1
Management style
  • What is the prevailing management style?
  • What are the implications for approaches to change?
future questions
Future questions
  • Questions for university staff, including administrators, academics and those in leadership positions include:
  • How can researchers recode, reclassify and reorganise departments, divisions and centres to promote interdisciplinary working within existing university structures?
  • Are there new methods of accounting for and allocating faculty time, including research points, teaching loads, and university service commitments?
  • What can be done on campus and electronically to connect researchers across the university?
  • How can faculty members be keyed into databases to reflect their positions, including multiple appointments in departments, research centres, schools and faculties?
  • How can interdisciplinary teaching be promoted throughout the university, including faculty reimbursement, time-tabling, cross-listing courses, and requirements from students?
  • Where do we want to be?
  • What will success look like?
  • What needs to change?
  • What are the development issues?
  • Planned outputs
  • Actions
  • Timeline
  • Responsibilities
contact us
Contact Us

Website address?

King's Learning InstituteRoom 6.16 James Clerk Maxwell Building57 Waterloo RoadLondon, SE1 8WAEmail: [email protected]: 0207 848 3905Fax: 0207 848 3253