Abstract! Crossing Boundaries: Principles for Learning and Teaching across Applied and Social Sciences

Im very happy to have had a paper accepted for a Sheffield’s conference on Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching: Frameworks and Practice on 7 April.  This is a subject close to my heart and Ive been working around the boundaries of engineering, sciences and social sciences for a while now so thought it was time to distill, test and share some of those thoughts.

Here is my abstract. Do you teach in interdisciplinary contexts? Do you use a framework to structure that learning experience or have you learned from trial and error?  Do you focus on attitudes, principles, skills and learning modes…or just some of these?  Please feel free to comment!

Crossing Boundaries: Principles for Learning and Teaching across Applied and Social Sciences

The allure of interdisciplinary solutions in addressing complex problems has become a recognizable feature of the UK and EU research landscape, spanning a range of activity from project-level collaborations to entirely new academic disciplines. In comparison, pedagogical strategies for interdisciplinary teaching and learning have been somewhat neglected, even though (ironically) the trend for interdisciplinarity was grounded in calls for reform in HE and an academy that would produce graduates better equipped to serve the needs of society (Klein 2008). This in turn is a response to earlier claims that traditional bodies of knowledge and norms were inadequate for the reflection, renewal and judgement required for complex and dynamic challenges (Jantsch 1972). However, explicit curricula did not begin to emerge until this millennium with courses in sustainability, ecosystems and environmental management playing roles as exemplars.   As these courses have matured, some clearer principles have come into view. In the first part of this presentation, I will present a pedagogical framework derived from a literature review that outlines what we currently know about successful interdisciplinary learning – a framework that spans attitudes to be cultivated, principles to be learned, skills to be developed and learning modes to be facilitated. In the second half, I will conclude by reflecting on professional practice to describe a sometimes painful but frequently rewarding journey of trying to implement these principles across two disciplinary fields that invoke two quite distinct epistemological traditions: social sciences and SET.