InterdisciplinaryTeaching Malcolm Potts, Qatar University, February 2008 1. Introduction
Definition of Interdisciplinarity “A process of answering a question, solving a problem, or addressing a topic that is too broad or complex to be dealt with adequately by a single discipline or profession.... IDS draws on disciplinary perspectives and integrates their insights through construction of a more comprehensive perspective” (Klein & Newell).
Why bother? • One discipline is not enough; the traditionally existing scientific disciplines are too narrow. • Social scientists must be involved; since all kinds of science has a social aspect, either in the form of consequences or context.
The Case forInterdisciplinary Teaching & Research • Complexity of social and cultural phenomena • Comparative cultural work & real intercultural contacts • Important discoveries often occur at the intersection • Opening to international and interdisciplinary perspectives • Merging and overlapping of different fields and disciplines • Many societal, environmental, industrial, scientific & engineering • problems cannot be adequately addressed by single disciplines • Intensified specialization of disciplines and the concurrent • explosion of new hybrid areas of research
Global Problems Demand Integration Poaching of endangered species AIDS epidemic in Africa World hunger Middle East crisis Working conditions for sweatshop employees in developing countries
Local, Daily Lives Require Integration Developing a multimedia presentation Serving on a cross- functional team Balancing one’s personal and professional life Collaborating with others who come from different cultural backgrounds Volunteering on a community service project
Employers Seek Integrative Thinkers Communication skills Ability to work in teams Flexibility Ability to accept ambiguity comfortably Ability to work with people of diverse backgrounds Ethical reasoning Understanding of globalization
The Different Terms The different degrees of interdisciplinarity, reflect the failure to achieve true interdisciplinary teaching…
Degrees of Interdisciplinarity* Multi-disciplinary: Tag Teaching Pluridisciplinary: Conscious Tolerance Cross-Disciplinary: Filtered Access Interdisciplinary: Fully Integrated Experience * Julie Thompson Klein http://www2.ac.edu/faculty/gened/Exploring.htm
Multi-disciplinary: Tag Teaching • Disciplines and presenters remain • separate • Data are shared, but viewed only in terms • of the difference between the 2 • disciplines • Students are expected to manage • integration • Disciplinary methods and epistemologies • are not examined critically
A “Team-Taught” Course • Each instructor interacts with the class but… • Instructors in the “team” have zero to limited • contact with one another
I wonder when my section of the course starts ? What do you think about the textbook? Tag Team • Instructor 1 for first half of course • Instructor 2 for the second half • “and never the two shall meet!”
Pluridisciplinary: Conscious Tolerance • Faculty have private talks about integration of material • Faculty gain insight into the other discipline, • but maintain their disciplinary filters • Similarities/differences in interpretation, methods, • and assumptions are explored • Discussions of methods and epistemology • are implicit (implied but not expressed) by end • of course
Cross-Disciplinary: Filtered Access • Dominant and subordinate roles of disciplines; • not a partnership • Practice in one discipline is examined • through the filter of the other discipline • Insights are gained, but the perspective of one • viewpoint is emphasized
Cross Disciplinary One owner and the owner drives
Interdisciplinary: Fully Integrated Experience • Faculty have regular interaction inside/outside of • the course • Students and faculty collaborate in synthesis/integration; • direction of course shifts as course evolves • Disciplinary perspectives are acknowledged and • made explicit; points of synthesis are developed & • areas of conflict are explored
Fully Integrated Experience A winning team
Group Discussion Do you see any similarities between these 4 degrees of interdisciplinarity and teaching at QU? What problems do you see with true interdisciplinary teaching at Qatar University?
Opinions on What Interdisciplinarity Requires Effective administration includes Centralized leadership Faculty input & joint appointments of full-time faculty “Responsibility is in the hands of an appropriate leader(s), rather than being dispersed across units whose primary loyalties are to their disciplines” (Association for Integrative Studies for AUCC) “Well-funded, well-respected organizations, which have an independent physical and intellectual center outside of, and different from, a traditional university department” (NSF)
More Opinions on Interdisciplinarity . . . Deep, “truly paradigmatic shift” among newer scholars (NSF) “A moment of academic redefinition and university reform, at the center of which – if implemented correctly – could and should sit interdisciplinary research centers.” (NSF)
Iron Law (J. Z. Smith) “Students shall not be expected to integrate anything that the faculty can’t or won’t.”
Integrative Learning is Growing General and liberal education Cross-disciplinary majors and minors, including area studies concentrations Professional training and degrees Individual courses within disciplinary departments Internships, study abroad, practicals New centers, institutes
Growing in Invisible Ways Learning communities Capstone experiences Problem-based research projects Shared databases, facilities Interdisciplinary schools of thought and approaches Inter-institutional consortia Sub-disciplinary boundary crossing
Obstacles • Pedagogy • Disciplinary training with limited methodologies • Focus on specific techniques • Narrow research goals of students’ labs • Lack of integrative thinking • Disciplinary loyalty • “Disciplinary ‘silo’ may penalize interdisciplinary work” • (Lesner) • University structure & funding • “Most academics are still evaluated for tenure and • promotion within their departments” (Lesner)
General Challenges for ID Teaching Coordinating different units and departments Recruiting faculty and students Rewarding faculty Creating opportunities for faculty to meet and collaborate Overcoming disciplinary biases Securing funding
More Challenges Interdisciplinarity is often misunderstood. It is demanding as a result of the need to operate in two or more disciplines. Faculty teaching courses may have little experience in interdisciplinarity. Professional literature is relatively small and unknown.
For Discussion “Instructors should be as informed about research in teaching, as they are about research in their own discipline” M. Potts, Feb 2008