Interdisciplinarity

Scientific and technological (S&T) development is progressing at such a fast speed that the sociologist Hartmut Rosa renamed what we are living into “the society of acceleration and uncertainty”. 

Within it we are observing the rising of:

New "disciplines"

climatology, artificial intelligence, data science & computation, digital humanities

New modus operandi of science research and its communication

Multi-actor, inter-multi-trans-disciplinary and open science
This brings new challenges to current forms of organization and transmission of knowledge, but our educational systems often remain rigid and do not appear able to keep the pace of change. As a result, a serious gap emerges from what the traditional educational organizations are producing and what the society requires. In order to equips young people with the skills needed to address current and future societal challenges, we believe it is crucial to try and align the traditional educational institutions (both school systems and universities) with the ways R&I is produced,
identifying the limits of discipline-based knowledge organisation and proposing new ways to address them through interdisciplinarity.
To innovate science education for the era of acceleration we need to support universities and schools to recognise and break down the institutional, conceptual, social, professional, epistemological and cultural barriers to science and social innovation induced by a vertical disciplinary organization. This way they can be able to develop, in the young generation, inter-multi-transdisciplinary thinking skills needed to grapple with the new methods and features of R&I and play an active role in our society.

But, what knowledge, skills, attitudes and values will today's students need to thrive in and shape their world?
How can instructional systems develop these knowledge, skills, attitudes and values effectively?

Questions launched by the OECD Future of Education and Skills 2030 project.

To investigate those questions we are gathering inputs from a variety of voices from different institutional and disciplinary settings and we are analysing them to propose recommendations for co-teaching and open schooling

Our preliminary findings came from three-part studies using literature review, interviews and interdisciplinary study groups. 

From literature review, we found out that a global tendency in the discourse on education quality is characterised by a note of negativity. The themes of inadequacy, failure to produce and weaknesses emerged in the overall context of science education. Is this situation correlated to the current organisation of knowledge in disciplines? To explore that we developed and conducted cross-national quantitative and qualitative interviews among institutional stakeholders in Finland, Italy, Lithuania and the UK. In parallel, we organized two study groups. At the first one we pointed out two draft FEDORA lists: a first of institutional, conceptual, professional, social, and cultural barriers ascribed to the current organisation of formal education and a second of interdisciplinary skills needed in the society of acceleration.

From this data arised three “shared narratives”:

A narrative of the barriers

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A narrative of conditions that facilitate interdisciplinarity

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A narrative of interdisciplinary attitudes and skills

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To work together we needed to agree on words meanings and build a common vocabulary to be used for describing and comparing different forms of knowledge organisation, as well as projects and various typologies of inter-/multi-/trans-disciplinarity. Moreover, we pointed out and discussed some case studies. The selected projects were

  • EMMO project, presented by Emanuele Ghedini and Sebastiano Moruzzi (UNIBO); 
  • OARS project about argumentation in the context of science and religious education, presented by Sibel Erduran and Liam Guilfoyle (UOXF); 
  • IDENTITIES project, presented by Olivia Levrini (UNIBO).

 

The second study group aimed to prototype an example of activity that could inspire the open schooling networks of WP4 in the construction of a safe and creative space for exchanging ideas on interdisciplinarity, and to find the words to engage with a designer and inspire her/him to help us visualize possible forms of knowledge organisation, potentially able to foster interdisciplinarity. Sharing images to inspire the discussion on Interdisciplinarity and Forms of Knowledge Organisation we gathered features/aspects of the images founded particularly interesting. 

We analysed the contents of the discussion to produce a description for every image and to feed an “inspirational document”. The document is one of our tools to speak with a graphic designer or an artist to elaborate new figures, and to suggest a way to foster the creation of a trading zone in our open schooling networks. The process itself of producing descriptions to the figures can be an exercise of collective writing that open schooling networks or classes can do to create their “trading zone” and share attitudes, values, goals, and practices.

In the end, our preliminary findings lead to those first key recommendations:

Key recommendations to the open schooling networks and the instruction designers

setting up a safe and emotionally positive trading zone and designing a methodology to facilitate embracing the ambiguity of interdisciplinarity, developing the skills needed to accept the risk and managing the equilibrium between sense making and strange making skills in a common coined language, and relating interdisciplinary experiences with value to society.

Key recommendations to policy makers and institutions

fostering the creation of locations and institutional contexts that can act as spaces that do not belong to any disciplinary context, promoting a cultural change in educational institutions aimed to overcome a “binary perspective” (disciplinarity vs interdisciplinarity), merging new professional identities that are based on interdisciplinarity and auditing organisational processes, in particular, human resource management practices to detect gaps creating paradoxes and discouraging interdisciplinarity.

Let’s “experience the boundaries” together, let’s melt our experiences, let’s meet at city of Euphemia (Italo Calvino - The invisible cities), where the merchants of seven nations gather at every solstice and equinox.

“You do not come to Euphemia only to buy and sell, but also because at night, by the fires all around the market, seated on sacks or barrels or stretched out on piles of carpets, at each word that one man says -- such as "wolf", "sister", "hidden treasure", "battle", "scabies", "lovers" -- the others tell, each one, his tale of wolves, sisters, treasures, scabies, lovers, battles. And you know that in the long journey ahead of you, when to keep awake against the camel's swaying or the junk's rocking, you start summoning up your memories one by one, your wolf will have become another wolf, your sister a different sister, your battle other battles, on your return from Euphemia, the city where memory is traded at every solstice and at every equinox.”

FEDORA, Future-oriented Science Education to enhance Responsibility and Engagement in the society of acceleration and uncertainty, is a 3-year EU-funded project. It started in September 2020 and will deploy its activities until August 2023. It gathers 6 partner institutions from 5 European countries.
FEDORA has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement no. 872841
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