Boundary breaking for interdisciplinary learning
The purpose of this work is to contribute to the body of knowledge on processes by which students develop interdisciplinary understanding of contents, as well as to suggest technology-enhanced means for supporting them in these processes in the context of higher education. In doing so, we suggest a rethinking of three traditional practices that tend to characterise typical higher education instruction: (1) compartmentalisation of disciplines; (2) traditional pedagogy; and (3) traditional hierarchies based on levels of expertise. Our high-level conjecture was that meaningful dialogue with peers and experts supports both the deepening of ideas in one knowledge domain and the formation of connections between ideas from several domains, both of which are required for the development of interdisciplinary understanding. We developed the Boundary Breaking for Interdisciplinary Learning (BBIL) model, which harnesses technology to break boundaries between disciplines, learners and organisational levels of hierarchy. Findings indicate that 36 undergraduate students who participated in an interdisciplinary online course that implemented the BBIL model have significantly improved their interdisciplinary understanding of the course contents. This study illustrates how innovative use of available, free and low-cost technology can produce a ‘positive disruption’ in higher education instruction.
Keywords: interdisciplinary learning; interdisciplinary understanding; learning community; cognitive apprenticeship; technology-enhanced learning; instructional design; higher education; online education
(Published: 28 October 2015)
Citation: Research in Learning Technology 2015, 23: 26496 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v23.26496
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