Several weeks ago I attended a really interesting breakfast workshop co-delivered by Warwick and Monash University. The theme of the session focused on interdisciplinarity in teaching and learning and covered some interesting ideas and projects that are currently being undertaken at both Universities. Using the wonders of technology there was a seamless and very effective video link to the lecture theatre in Monash.
Interdisciplinarity seems to be a ‘hot topic’ in teaching and learning at the moment. The recent Kings/Warwick project found that this form of teaching often took place ‘despite of the curriculum’ as an extra aside and discussions focused on how in some instances the concept of interdiscplinarity had been embraced in the development of new modules. The opening talk included a further discussion of the project results and highlighted the importance of students in assisting with the development of interdisciplinary initiaitives within HE – the idea of a student-as-producer philosophy.
The first talk from Monash focused on a subject that did not quite fit within any discipline and how they approached the teaching of language in conjunction with the teaching of culture. The speaker highlighted how they were able to collaborate with different disciplines both within their own university and institutions overseas. Institutional support was considered vital in promoting this practice. Whilst interdisciplinary practice brought a number of benefits there were some concerns over how these sort of modules/departments fitted into the Australian Research Assessment Exercise.
Warwick followed this talk with a series of student accounts about what they got out of interdisciplinary modules. This section was really powerful and emphasised the value and impact of this style of teaching – students were encouraged to go beyond their comfort zones and develop new skills.
The academic perspective was also covered by both Monash and Warwick with details of specific projects that have been undertaken and how this approach to teaching promoted fresh approaches to delivering modules. In addition assessment approaches were also mentioned including reflective writing, essays, group projects and portfolios. What was interesting was how this form of teaching promoted creative thinking and how well it was received by those students who engaged with it. Whilst there are obviously some challenges to this approaching and critics who believe that this approach can ‘water down subjects’ – the morning was invaluable and inspiring. It will be interesting to watch developments in this area further both here and within other institutions.