The desire to provide more holistic educational experiences has led many to have a closer look at integrated learning and transdisciplinary inquiry. A search of the internet will bring up many schools and universities claiming to offer transdisciplinary learning but closer inspection reveals quite different interpretations of the terms.
What is Transdisciplinary Inquiry?
Although little distinction is sometimes made between multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinary inquiry many would argue that there is a significant difference – particularly for older students. Transdisciplinary approaches involve multiple disciplines and the space between the disciplines with the possibility of new perspectives ‘beyond’ those disciplines. Where multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary inquiry may focus on the contribution of disciplines to an inquiry transdisciplinary inquiry tends to focus on the inquiry or issue itself. (The Transdisciplinary Evolution of Learning)
You need to be online to see this graphicDisciplinary: Epistemologies, assumptions, knowledge, skills, methods within the boundary of a discipline.
eg. Physics; History; Psychology
Multidisciplinary: Using the knowledge/understanding of more than one discipline.
eg Physics and History; Biology and Architecture
Interdisciplinary: Using the epistemologies/methods of one discipline within another.
eg. Biochemistry; Ecophilosophy; Astrophysics
Transdisciplinary: Focus on an issue such as pollution or hunger both within and beyond discipline boundaries with the possibility of new perspectives.
A Charter of Transdisciplinarity
Some paraphrased extracts from a Charter adopted by the participants at a World Congress on Transdisciplinarity in 1994.
Transdisciplinarity complements disciplinary approaches.
The transdisciplinary vision goes beyond the exact sciences and demands dialogue with the humanities and the social sciences, as well as with art, literature, poetry and spiritual experience.
The recognition of the existence of different levels of reality governed by different types of logic is inherent in the transdisciplinary attitude.
The transdisciplinary attitude involves an acceptance of the unknown, the unexpected and the unforeseeable.
Inter- and Trans-disciplinary Inquiry – Some links
Science – Multidisciplinary Research: Today’s Hottest Buzzword?
“Bioinformatics, bioengineering, nanobiotechnology, biomimetic robotics, biophysical chemistry … These days it sounds as if you can pick and mix scientific disciplines to make your own. But can you really? How easy is it for early-career scientists to become multi-, inter-, or even transdisciplinary?” Website for teachers and older students
Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning
“Why Pursue Interdisciplinarity? Simply put: life is interdisciplinary. First, there are pressing social problems (crime, poverty, AIDS) that cannot be resolved by a single disciplinary perspective. Second, students and faculty rail against the artificial fragmentation of knowledge, asking for more connected learning and coherence in the curriculum. Third, employers want college graduates who are prepared to meet the multidisciplinary needs of the work world, integrating what they have learned in disparate fields. Fourth, administrators hope to make more efficient use of resources and equipment by sharing them across disciplines. Fifth, there are dynamic changes in knowledge construction, blurring disciplinary boundaries across fields, e.g., cultural studies. Scientific breakthroughs, research and funding patterns for research have transformed disciplines such as neuroscience and bioengineering (Klein, 1990). And sixth, electronic technology and the Internet are transforming the way we organize and seek knowledge, replacing linear models with hypertext links that disregard disciplinary boundaries.” 2 pages
The Transdisciplinary Evolution of Learning
“Transdisciplinary education has its origins in the inexhaustible richness of the scientific spirit, which is based on questioning, as well as on the rejection of all a priori answers and certitude contradictory to the facts. At the same time, it revalues the role of deeply rooted intuition, of imagination, of sensitivity, and of the body in the transmission of knowledge. Only in this way can society of the twenty-first century reconcile effectiveness and affectivity.” 10 pages and very clear
New Pedagogies in the Knowledge Society
“Recent notions of ‘new pedagogy’ and ‘the knowledge society’ reflect a contextual and conceptual shift that places fresh demands and new dilemmas upon university teaching, curriculum development and program design. In particular, the question of how we conceptualise knowledge within the growing number of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary fields continues to challenge our epistemological and pedagogical understandings.” Australian paper – 6 pages
Forging New Paths – Transdisciplinarity in Universities
“There are an increasing number of research topics which fail to fit within traditional disciplinary boundaries. In fact, in some of these, the whole notion and structural ramifications of disciplinarity represent a limitation to advancement in that area. Such areas of study have been described as multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary.” Short Australian article
CIRET: International Centre for Transdisciplinary Research
Charter for Transdisciplinarity
Learning Development Institute
A Transdisciplinary Networked Learning Community Devoted to Excellence in the Development and Study of Learning.
Association for Integrative Studies
The Association for Integrative Studies is an interdisciplinary professional organization founded in 1979 to promote the interchange of ideas among scholars and administrators in all of the arts and sciences on intellectual and organizational issues related to furthering integrative studies.
Santa Fe Institute
The Santa Fe Institute is devoted to creating a new kind of scientific research community, one emphasizing multidisciplinary collaboration in pursuit of understanding the common themes that arise in natural, artificial, and social systems.
Transcending the usual boundaries of science to explore the frontiers of knowledge.
interdisciplines: Rethinking Interdisciplinarity
Excellent papers and discussion.
International Holistic Tourism Education Centre
The Holistic Tourism Education core curriculum examines the inter-disciplinary relationships between various branches of knowledge.