Issues in Interdisciplinary Studies Volume 24 (2006)

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    Symbolic Variety and Cultural Integration, AIS National Conference Keynote Address, October 6, 2006
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2006) Navakas, Francine; Fiscella, Joan
    A unique combination of historical and cultural circumstances has contributed to two profound phenomena arising out of the early modern age: the emergence of cultural fragmentation and the revolutionary transition in symbolic structures to those in which the human subject has become the sole constituent principle of meaning and value. The creative impact of rich cultural diversity continues to this day, but cultural dispersion also exacts a toll in the absence of understanding of the relationships among symbol systems, the lack of a probing comprehension of cultural plurality, and inattention or indifference to the importance of integrative and synthetic impulses. Interdisciplinary studies may provide some of the critical understandings and processes for reducing vulnerability to excesses of cultural relativism and ideological absolutes.
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    Administering Interdisciplinary and Innovative Programs: Lessons from the Rise and Fall of Arizona International College
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2006) Navakas, Francine; Fiscella, Joan
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    Whither Interdisciplinarity
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2006) Navakas, Francine; Fiscella, Joan
    This essay comments on Stuart Henry's important contribution to our thinking about the administration of interdisciplinary programs. Though I quibble with a few of the arguments he makes in the last volume of Issues, I focus my remarks on adding to Henry's suggested strategies for defending interdisciplinarity. I conclude with brief observations on the question of academic appointments and on teaching and learning.
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    Disciplining Interdisciplinarity: The Case for Textbooks
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2006) Navakas, Francine; Fiscella, Joan
    This essay makes the case for the disciplining of interdisciplinarity through the vehicle of textbooks. It draws upon (1) the 2003 Delphi survey of interdisciplinarians regarding opportunities and challenges to interdisciplinary education, (2) research in cognitive psychology and education about the nature of learning, and (3) the emerging conversations regarding definitions of interdisciplinary studies, theoretical underpinnings of the professional literature and practice, and the various step-based approaches to operationalizing the interdisciplinary research process.
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    Uncertain Paths for Interdisciplinary Programs and Their Faculties: Critical Stakes to Claim
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2006) Navakas, Francine; Fiscella, Joan
    The following response to Henry (2005a) identifies other recent and current challenges to undergraduate interdisciplinary studies programs and their faculties. These challenges can include their administrative and physical locations within the University as well as certain trends associated with the market-driven corporate university, such as the devaluation of teaching faculty. Szostak's (2006) question, "Whither interdisciplinary studies?" is considered in light of current developments in the humanities, as evidenced by recent issues of the Modern Language Association's publication focusing on professional concerns, Profession. I conclude by suggesting that undergraduate IDS programs must establish their own spaces and territories as well as publish more widely-read, influential books about interdisciplinarity.
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    Interdisciplinary Work at the Frontier: An Empirical Examination of Expert Epistemologies
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2006) Navakas, Francine; Fiscella, Joan
    At the frontier of knowledge production, boundary-crossing takes place at a variety of disciplinary crossroads. This paper reports the results of an empirical study of work carried out at five major research institutions. The study is based of in-depth interview data (N = 55), complemented by samples of published work and institutional documentation. At least three approaches to interdisciplinary inquiry are identified: conceptual-bridging, comprehensive, and pragmatic. Each approach embodies preferred epistemological mechanisms for disciplinary integration and favors particular validation criteria by which interdisciplinary insights are assessed.
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    Interdisciplinary Integration in Professional Education: Tools and Analysis from Cultural Historical Activity Theory
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2006) Nacakas, Francine; Fiscella, Joan
    The purpose of this paper is to introduce readers of Issues in Integrative Studies to cultural historical activity theory (CHAT). CHAT represents a systems approach to understanding the sociocultural matrix in which knowledge is transmitted and transformed. Although it was developed in the context of early-childhood learning, CHAT is now invoked in a wide variety of educational and organizational settings. To ground an overview of this intricate theory, we begin the paper by summarizing our own recent study of an issue in integrative learning. That study addressed the challenges of cross-disciplinary integration for students in a professional graduate program of water resources science, policy, and management. In the paper's second major section, we present the origins and development of CHAT and current research based on it. In the final section, referring again to the water program study, we explain how CHAT's conceptual and descriptive tools could be employed to help students integrate knowledge across disciplines in the context of water-related social issues. We hope that this introduction to CHAT suggests to readers other applications of the theory in situations where the object is to understand dynamic connections among interlocked systems. The general relevance of CHAT to the integrative studies community may lie in its demonstrating the critical importance, to the productive growth of any collective endeavor, of identifying, engaging, and expanding beyond inevitable systemic contradictions.
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    Interdisciplinary Integration by Undergraduates
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2006) Navakas, Francine; Fiscella, Joan
    This article examines whether it is feasible to teach interdisciplinary integration to undergraduates, especially the demanding conception of integration envisioned in my "A Theory of Interdisciplinary Studies." The 37 senior projects completed in the spring of 2005 in the Western College Program at Miami University are analyzed for each of the integrative steps in my latest version of the interdisciplinary process: identifying, illuminating, and evaluating conflict in insights; constructing common ground; identifying linkages among disciplines; constructing/modeling a more comprehensive understanding; and testing the new understanding. Numerous examples of the successful implementation of each step are presented. The entire set of projects is then evaluated using the interdisciplinary integration profile from the Wolfe-Haynes assessment instrument to determine how many of the integrative steps set out in that instrument were completed by these seniors and how well the steps were carried out. The article also examines whether the academically most successful students achieved more complete or higher quality integration.