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55 Chapter Profiling Interdisciplinarity 3 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 in chapter 1, I included individuals with a wide array of interdisciplinary experiences, both formal and informal. Formal activities were defined as participation in interdisciplinary teaching or research projects on an individual or collaborative basis. Informal activities included participation in interdisciplinary colloquia, symposia, workshops, or conferences or participation in such activities in a discipline other than the home discipline, self-defined by the faculty member but typically the doctoral degree discipline. A good example of an informal interaction is participation in a faculty workshop in which individuals share syllabi for prospective interdisciplinary courses. Depending on the intensity of the discussion or the openness of the faculty member to change, discussions with colleagues who look at a given topic through different disciplinary, or interdisciplinary , lenses might motivate a search for new sources of information , experimentation with different pedagogical tech- *A more detailed description of the study design and procedures can be found in the appendix. creating interdisciplinarity 56 niques, or reading in related disciplines. Participation in informal interdisciplinary activities therefore can reflect substantial engagement with an interdisciplinary topic. For most faculty, even attending a conference that only lasts a few days is preceded by a longer period of engagement prior to the decision to attend since in most institutions limited travel funds make casual conferencegoing rare. Similarly even regular attendance at a campus seminar requires a commitment of time and mental energy that faculty with heavy research and/ or teaching responsibilities cannot make lightly. Furthermore it is impossible to know a priori from the type of interaction how intense the engagement with interdisciplinarity is. Formal activities such as joint teaching assignments may not require faculty members to adjust disciplinary perspectives, while sustained engagement in an interdisciplinary seminar may have a profound effect on ways of thinking. Participation in an informal activity such as an interdisciplinary faculty seminar, conference, or institute was the minimum requirement for inclusion in the study, but the majority of informants participated in both kinds of interdisciplinary interaction. Thirteen reported that they participated in informal activities; nine reported that they participated on a regular basis over an extended period of time. Several served as directors of such seminar programs, which included topics in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. The majority of informants who participated in interdisciplinary seminars, conferences , or institutes also had interdisciplinary teaching or research experience. All but six of the thirty-eight informants taught at least one interdisciplinary course in the two years prior to the study.* Of these informants twenty taught at least one course through an interdisciplinary academic program; others described their interdisciplinary teaching as occurring within their home department . Of the twenty who taught in interdisciplinary programs, most taught in undergraduate programs that grant baccalaureate degrees such as women’s studies, black studies, and urban studies. A few taught in interdisciplinary programs such as international studies that do not grant degrees but offer minor concentrations to undergraduates. Three informants taught in an interdisci- *A 1998–1999 survey of 33,785 faculty at 378 American colleges and universities found that 36.6 percent of faculty reported teaching an interdisciplinary course in the past two years. A summary of the survey results were published in the report “The American College Teacher,” available from the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles (Sax, Astin, Korn, and Gilmartin 1999). 57 profiling interdisciplinarity plinary graduate program. These programs did not grant advanced degrees; rather students were enrolled in other degree-granting programs but took courses and participated in research through the program. Nearly half of the informants who said they taught at least one interdisciplinary course also team taught such a course with a colleague from another discipline.* Several informants who taught in degree-granting programs described their role in moving those programs from their original status as minors to degree-granting programs with undergraduate majors. A number served as directors of these programs: two of the individuals who taught in interdisciplinary graduate programs at one time directed those programs while four of the individuals teaching in undergraduate programs served as directors. Three individuals were directors of special programs that they defined as interdisciplinary ; these included general education, critical thinking...


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