Reading the analysis of ‘The Logic of Interdisciplinary studies’ (Mathison and Freeman, 1997) summarised many of my own understandings around interdisciplinary learning.
I have summarised their conclusions in the graphics below;
My biggest surprise in their analysis was that it was concluded 20 years ago! Yes, 20 years ago research showed that interdisciplinary studies had positive effects for students and teachers, with diverse outcomes like increased motivation, cooperation, understandings and global perspectives.
I believe the reason that, despite conclusive research, progress is so slow is simply because it is hard. Working in a silo, with little or no collaboration is easier for administrators, teachers, parents and students.
Analysing my own interdisciplinary professional connections showed that I have many potential connections, that would be hugely beneficial. The problem is simply time, time to establish relationships – within my school and local community, both nationally and internationally.
On reflection, I believe that many of my current connections are happening because they are easy. Ironically, it is easier to have a #mysteryskype chat with a school in America than it is to arrange a visit to the local ECE. In fact, a lot of my connections are digital, such as knowing and utilising the Connected Learning Advisory team, but not utilising any other Ministry of Education advisers.
One specific goal I would like to work on is making a connection with the small local businesses in our community. I believe our learners could benefit from understanding some of the complexities of running a small business, especially in understanding the application of many curriculum areas. I also see many opportunities for our learners to contribute to local businesses, such as using website development, social media, graphic art and language skills to drive promotions to local stores.
Mulligan and Kuban (2015) addressed the need for time in their research ‘A Conceptual Model for Interdisciplinary Collaboration‘. One of the key conditions they establish is favourable workplace conditions, with time set aside for regular communication. I liked the idea they gave of a ‘standing’ meeting that is scheduled every week. This sets aside the time and makes it a priority for the collaborators to get together, rather than being ‘busy’ in their own silos.
A specific action for me is thus arranging a regular (monthly?) meeting with local business, potentially online or at a time where students can somehow be involved. We would share what is happening in our school, and discuss some of the challenges the local businesses are facing. For me, the beauty of a regular catch-up is that it takes the same amount of effort to arrange one meeting as it does to arrange a regular meeting. Anything to ensure we get out of our own silos has got to be good!
Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997. Retrieved from http://www.albany.edu/cela/reports/mathisonlogic12004.pdf:
Mulligan and Kuban (2015). http://acrlog.org/2015/05/14/a-conceptual-model-for-interdisciplinary-collaboration./