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Creating Interdisciplinarity

Interdisciplinary Research and Teaching among College and University Faculty

Lisa R. Lattuca

Publication Year: 2001

Interdisciplinarity, a favorite buzzword of faculty and administrators, has been appropriated to describe so many academic pursuits that it is virtually meaningless. With a writing style that is accessible, fluid, and engaging, Lisa Lattuca remedies this confusion with an original conceptualization of interdisciplinarity based on interviews with faculty who are engaged in its practice. Whether exploring the connections between apparently related disciplines, such as English and women's studies, or such seemingly disparate fields as economics and theology, Lattuca moves away from previous definitions based on the degrees of integration across disciplines and instead focuses on the nature of the inquiry behind the work. She organizes her findings around the processes through which faculty pursue interdisciplinarity, the contexts (institutional, departmental, and disciplinary) in which faculty are working, and the ways in which those contexts relate to and affect the interdisciplinary work. Her findings result in useful suggestions for individuals concerned with the meaning of faculty work, the role and impact of disciplines in academe today, and the kinds of issues that should guide the evaluation of faculty scholarship.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

Confidentiality prevents me from naming most of the people whose participation was essential to this study. Although the faculty who took part in this research must remain anonymous, they should not go unrecognized. Their words and experiences are the lifeblood of this book, and I thank them for the gift of their time, which is always in short supply. Confidentiality also prevents ...

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1. Considering Interdisciplinarity

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pp. 1-22

To the untrained eye the world is interdisciplinary—or, more accurately, nondisciplinary. In Western society our attempts to understand it, however, are often discipline-based. In Cartesian fashion we use our analytic skills to divide the world into smaller and smaller units, hoping that in understanding the parts we will eventually understand the whole. ...

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2. Disciplining Knowledge

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pp. 23-54

The realities of today’s academic organizations oblige observers of higher education to study interdisciplinarity and disciplinarity in point and counterpoint. Most scholars define the locus of interdisciplinarity as the integration of disciplinary perspectives. Moreover, understanding how interdisciplinarity is received, and how it is conceived, depends ...

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3. Profiling Interdisciplinarity

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pp. 55-77

To gather information on the processes, contexts, and outcomes of interdisciplinarity, I interviewed thirty-eight college and university faculty who had engaged in interdisciplinary scholarship in the two years prior to the study.* Following the definition of interdisciplinarity developed by the Center for Educational Research and Innovation, discussed ...

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4. Constructing Interdisciplinarity

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pp. 78-118

Most definitions specify the integration of different disciplines as the litmus test for interdisciplinarity. In contrast the definition that guided this study broadly defined interdisciplinarity as the interaction of different disciplines. This definition left the question of integration open and made it possible to explore informants’ understandings of interdisciplinarity ...

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5. Pursuing Interdisciplinarity: Research and Teaching Processes

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pp. 119-168

I chose to interview faculty about how they engaged in interdisciplinary work because I believe that we can learn much about what people think and value by examining their everyday practices. The accounts of interdisciplinary research and teaching activities that I collected revealed explicit and tacit assumptions about what counts as scholarship ...

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6. Abiding Interdisciplinarity: The Impact of Academic Contexts

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pp. 168-209

Much of the rhetoric of interdisciplinarity concerns perceived indifference or outright hostility to interdisciplinary scholarship, resulting from skeptical disciplinary colleagues, rigid departmental structures, traditional promotion and tenure systems, and inflexible budgeting practices. Undoubtedly disciplinary structures can impede interdisciplinary ...

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7. Tracing Interdisciplinarity: Scholarly Outcomes

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pp. 210-242

Faculty attributed a variety of professional and intellectual outcomes to interdisciplinary teaching and research. These included academic rewards such as promotions and tenure as well as tangible professional outcomes such as conference papers, articles, and books. Interdisciplinary projects also produced intellectual outcomes: changes in personal ...

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8. Realizing Interdisciplinarity

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pp. 243-266

The early literature on interdisciplinarity would depress even the most successful interdisciplinarian, with its relentless emphasis on the barriers to interdisciplinary scholarship: unfavorable reward structures, biased faculty, uninformed administrators. Julie Thompson Klein synthesized this literature in her 1990 book, Interdisciplinarity: History, ...

Appendix: Study Design and Conduct

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pp. 267-276


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pp. 277-288


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pp. 289-296

E-ISBN-13: 9780826591364
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826513670
Print-ISBN-10: 0826513670

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2001