Issues in Interdisciplinary Studies Volume 31 (2013)

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    Towards an Understanding of Interdisciplinarity: The Case of a British University
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2013) Pauline Gagnon
    This study explores what academics in one major university in Great Britain (The Great Western University) perceive interdisciplinary research (IDR) to be, and in doing so, differtiates it from associated concepts, such as multidisciplinary research and transdisciplinary research, found in the research literature. This study is important because the university in which the study is set has undertaken a complete restructuring of colleges and departments to support interdisciplinary research. The inquiry utilized a two-phased, mixed methods, descriptive case study to examine perceptions of the nature, significance, and benefits of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research. The methods of the data collection were semi-structured interview (25 participants), survey (127 participants) and analysis of archival documents. The findings indicate that the restructuring of The Great Western University to support interdisciplinary research began on less than firm footing. While scholars seem to have clarified the definitions of interdisciplinary approaches, in practice there still is a lack of clarity in sectors which are less familiar with interdisciplinary approaches to solving major problems facing society. We identified issues of clarity of terminology and mission, flexibility of implementation, and alignment of faculty incentives as involving necessary but unmet conditions for fostering and promoting interdisciplinarity throughout the university.
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    Interdisciplinarity in Francophone Education: The Weal and Woe of a Research Journey
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2013) Pauline Gagnon
    This article presents elements from the research journey pursued by the author in the area of interdisciplinarity in education, and more specifically in elemenatry education, which he has been studying for 30 years. The text begins by presenting the reasons that led to undertaking doctoral studies on this issue. It then addresses the foundations of the conceptual frame of reference used by the author in performing research studies. The article then examines three results that emerge from this research: a conceptual clarification of the notion of interdisciplinarity with respect to curricula and professional training; certain empirical findings on the conception and practice of interdisciplinarity among elementary school teachers; and the existence of three interpretive logics of interdisciplinarity associated with three distinct cultures: English-speaking American, French-speaking European, and Portuguese-speaking Latin American.  To conclude, the article proposes a definition of interdisciplinarity in schools based on the Francophone reality, along with three principles for promoting an integrative approach in teaching-learning relationships.
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    Caught in the Act: Interdisciplinary Studies Where I Least Expected It
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2013) Pauline Gagnon
    George Herbert's unified poetic text, The Temple, may be read as Herbert's attempt to gain wholeness through reading the Bible and the signs of God in the natural universe. For Herbert, holy insight is based on comparing the one with the many. In "Prayer (1)," for instance, Herbert provides a long list of prayer's functions. Yet the poem's final phrase, "something understood," suggests that Herbert has absorbed the learning represented by this list, has simplified and replaced prayer's multifarious utility.  The relation of part (or function) to whole (or purpose) in people's lives, and in human history, is repeated in the mysteries of divine history, which Herbert studies in the two sonnets entitled "The Holy Scriptures." In the second of these poems, Herbert notes that "This verse marks that, and both do make a motion/ Unto a third, that ten leaves off doth lie." In reading the Bible, Herbert is writing his own version of Holy Scriptures. The pun on "lie" suggests his poetic feigning. Herbert's study of the relationship of reading to writing presents a complex and paradoxical evaluation of the ways of learning.
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    The State of the Field: Institutionalization of Interdisciplinarity
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2013) Gagnon, Pauline
    This reflection on the state of the field of interdiscipinary studies presents a conceptual framework for thinking about the institutionalization of interdisciplinarity, accounts for developments that have expanded its nature and modes of implementation, addresses the role of professionalization, and weighs the balance of universality and local political economy.  The underlying argument is that interdisciplinary studies is a constellation of fieds, not a single sphere of interest. Static models and universal theories disguise the complex plurality, diversity, and dynamism of research and education today. Traditional models still exist, but new strategies are also advancing prospects for inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches across the heterogeneous landscape of the academy.
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    The State of the Field: Interdisciplinary Theory
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2013) Pauline Gagnon
    This chronological overview of the development of interdisciplinary theory starts with the pre-cursors of theory:  the development and elaboration of the definition of interdisciplinary studies, influentia but problematic images of interdisciplinary studies proposed by Donal Campbel and Erich Jantsch, and best practices in interdisciplinary studies identified through AIS. It continues with a review of the motivation behind a theory of interdisciplinary studies, the controversy it engendered, and an assessment of what remains to be done. It concludes with the challenges to theory posed by new types of interdisciplinary studies, especially transdisciplinary studies and the science of team science.
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    Navigating Complex Trade-offs in Conservation and Development: An Integrative Framework
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2013) Pauline Gagnon
    We present a framework that makes space for multiple perspectives and ways of thinking about complex trade-off problems in conservation and development.  At the core of the framework are three “integrative lenses” designed to facilitate lines of inquiry according to three unique ways of perceiving complexity.  The aim of the framework is not to produce a unified theory or a model that justifies one choice over another to all audiences; rather, its purpose is to yield a more integrative and context-sensitive set of problem definitions that can open the way to a variety of pathways for action and research. The approach we present is particularly relevant in the context of highly complex problems - those involving complicated and uncertain dynamics, a multiplicity of values, a multiplicity of perspective, and the exercise of multiple forms of power (incuding the power to frame the problem).  We argue that setting aside the urge for synthesis - and therby preserving enough of the comlexity of the problem - can serve as a starting point for fertile and productive engagements between researchers working across disciplines, and between researchers and practitioners.
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    The State of the Field: Interdisciplinary Research
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2013) Pauline Gagnon
    Our understanding of the process of interdisciplinary research has expanded considerably over the last decades. The purpose of this brief paper is to take stock of where we are and where we are going.  The first section addresses definitional issues and discusses the relationship between teaching and research. The second section discusses potential objections to the idea of identifying best practices for interdisciplinary research. The third section outlines best practices for each step in the interdisciplinary research process, and identifies avenues for further research.
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    Starting with Worldviews: A Five-Step Preparatory Approach to Integrative Interdisciplinary Learning
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2013) Pauline Gagnon
    In this article we propose a five-step sequenced approach to integrative interdisciplinary learning in undergraduate gateway courses. Drawing from the literature of interdisciplinarity, transformative learning theory, and theories of reflective learning, we utilize a sequence of five steps early in our respective undergraduate gateway courses to foster preliminary lessons crucial for integrative interdisciplinary learning. Collectively, these steps help students recognize their own worldviews even as they will eventually understand tnad value the multiple disciplinary perspectives to be integrated in interdisciplinary work.  The five steps discussed in this article are initial community-building activities, a class viewing of a segment from The Muppet Show featuring Harry Belafonte, a combination of class and small group discussion, an intellectual autobiography assignment, and our respective adaptations of Smith Magazine’s Six-Word Memoirs.
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    Editors' Introduction
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2013)
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    Contributions of Interdisciplinary Studies to Civic Learning: An Addendum to A Crucible Moment
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2013) Pauline Gagnon
    Though overlooked or at best implicit in A Crucible Moment, interdisciplinary studies has much to contribute to civic learning for democratic engagement. The article organizes those contributions into the report’s categories of knowledge, values, and skills. It concludes with an example of how techniques used in interdisciplinary studies to create common ground can contribute to fruitful democratic discourse on even the thorniest of societal issues, namely abortion.
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    Reframing Interdisciplinary and Interprofessional Collaboration through the Lens of Collective and Sociomaterial Theories of Learning
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 2013) Pauline Gagnon
    The purpose of this article is to begin to explore how collective and sociomaterial theories of learning might be applied within interdisciplinary and interprofessional contexts—in particuar the team-based collaboration that is playing an ever larger role in both fields.  It articulates several key features of interdisciplinary and interprofessional activities and then speculates on how they might be productively reframed through the lenses of the following theoretical perspectives: communities of practice, cultural historical activity theory, complexity science and actor-network theory  The article is not intended to be comprehensive; its aim is to begin the process of developing deeper, more theoretically sophisticated understandings of the collective learning and knowing that emerge—often across deep paradigmatic divides—through interprofessional and interdisciplinary collaboration