The October Provisions session explored the topic of Interdisciplinary Collaboration.  The three presenters included Amina Eladaddi, from the Dept. of Mathematics, Jack Pickering, from the Dept. of Communication Science and Disorders, and Mark Ledbetter, from the Dept. of Philosophy and Religious Studies.  Each presenter discussed ways in which they were able to exercise interdisciplinary collaboration in their specific fields, and all stressed the value in such collaborations.

Eladaddi was the first of the three presenters, and began by giving the audience a definition of interdisciplinary: involving two disciplines that are usually distinct.  She was careful to describe the difference between multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary.  She defined multidisciplinary as many disciplines coming together to solve a problem followed by a split, or return, to their own when the problem is solved, and interdisciplinary meaning that the interaction of multiple disciplines could potentially forge a new discipline altogether.  The example that she lives is the collaboration of mathematics and biology, where now it can be concentrated into even more specific collaborations under that large umbrella such as mathematical oncology.

Eladaddi expressed the value of interdisciplinary collaboration in the classroom by providing examples of how she conducts collaboration in her own classroom.  She acknowledged that many students do not have an appreciation for mathematical equations, but that by providing them with real-world applications and situations, she was able to spark their interest and grow their appreciation.  Some of the applications she gives her students in the classroom range from efficiency problems such as plowing a town in a snowstorm, to game theory and financial management.

Before she wrapped up her presentation, Eladaddi left the audience to think about some of the challenges that accompany interdisciplinary collaboration.  Some of the challenges included finding a common language between disciplines that have their own discipline-specific terminology, what collaboration could mean for assessments, and even the need and challenge to create a definition of interdisciplinary that fits into our own culture here at The College of Saint Rose.

Jack Pickering followed Eladaddi with a presentation on Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Clinical Education.  Dr. Pickering was sure to emphasize that collaboration is not only a product but also a process, and that it is essential because it mirrors the real world and broadens both student experience and understanding.

Pickering mentioned Dr. Mark Ylvisaker and his conditions for an exceptional collaborative team.  According to Ylvisaker, exceptional teams must: learn from one another, share skills, not exude a pecking order, understand that many critical needs of people are not discipline specific, and respect one another.

Pickering also mentioned the formation of a project involving students in both CSD and Nutrition programs.  Erin Embry, M.S., a faculty member and Associate Director, Masters Program in the NYU Dept. of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, initiated this collaborative course with the Nutrition Department that narrowed its focus to swallowing issues and took their research to the hospital setting.  Pickering explained that the problem-based learning approach and the application process resulted in a very motivated group where diverse backgrounds were able to come together for a common, critical vision.

Pickering, like Eladaddi, was not remiss to mention some the challenges that accompany interdisciplinary collaboration, such as insufficient funding, lack of a common language across disciplines, and evaluation.

For more information, you can check out Pickering’s slide show presentation: CreativeCollab Provisions Oct23 (2).

Mark Ledbetter concluded the presentations with some insight on a project he is currently involved with and some of the things he has learned from his experience with interdisciplinary collaboration.  The project Ledbetter talked about was the American City Project, which is a first-year experience program that consists of seven thematically-linked courses that will focus on the urban experience utilizing a range of discipline-specific methodologies.

Ledbetter learned that it is difficult, as teachers, to say “tell me something.”  He says that there has to be “aggressive passivity” where everyone must listen to each other.  He also expressed the importance of faculty recognizing and acknowledging disciplinary limitation: no topic can be assumed by an entire discipline.  He concluded with the statement that it his students’ loss if he does not model this type of pedagogy in his classroom.

Following up the presentations, there was a large open discussion session.  In this discussion, the lack of a “definition” of interdisciplary was discussed and how that could be a factory in what makes it scary.  Adding to reservations, the difficulty/hard work involved in carrying out interdisciplinary collaboration and the barriers created by the possibility of both insecurity as well as arrogance of faculty was discussed as well.

The fact of the matter is, interdisciplinary collaboration is enormous in both time and resources, lending itself more easily to some courses more than others.  The question then becomes, are you willing to put in the work for the benefits?

You can listen to the podcast here.

Here is an additional resource submitted that discusses collaboration with Art!

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