Issues in Interdisciplinary Practice in Higher Education: The Art and Science Connection
Higher education administrators are spending increasing amounts of time and money searching for ways to foster interdisciplinary research and discourse. Within the disciplines themselves, where many academics feel that avenues of research have been played out or have become too constricting, one also finds an increase in interdisciplinary research, for example, between the humanities and the cognitive sciences. Yet, quite often, interdisciplinary work has proven more difficult in practice than in theory. Scholars investigating issues in interdisciplinary work in higher education have begun to take into account social, cultural, economic, and historical settings in order to identify key elements in successful interdisciplinary practice (Boix-Mansilla & Gardner, 2002); (Frost & Jean, 2003); (Lattuca, 2002). At the same time, the interdisciplinary practice of those collaborating within the more loosely-aligned art, science and technology communities has been the focus of an increasing number of papers, conferences, and think-tanks. This paper represents an initial attempt to synthesize the research and lessons learned from the higher education and art/science/technology communities in order to identify core factors behind successful interdisciplinary practice and identify emergent issues for further study. When viewed together, overlapping themes emerge including the need for a strong grounding in one discipline before engaging in interdisciplinary work; the need for an interdisciplinary mind-set; the evolution of new communities of practice; and the impact of shifts in inquiry within the sciences and the humanities on current trends in interdisciplinary research. Recommendations are suggested for those currently engaged in or attempting to foster interdisciplinary practice at higher education institutions. Emergent issues such as the need for better tools for assessing interdisciplinary work and what impact online and other communities of practice will have on the quality and direction of research, are also identified.
Keywords: Higher education, Interdisciplinary, Art and science, Humanities and science, Knowledge production
Ms. Diana Meckley