Interdisciplinarity as Transdisciplinarity, Being Professional, Lifelong Learning and the Skills Agenda

Gough, A.Martin (2005) Interdisciplinarity as Transdisciplinarity, Being Professional, Lifelong Learning and the Skills Agenda. In: Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) “The Future of Interdisciplinarity” Conference, 10 Dec.2005, University of Cambridge. (Unpublished) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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The issue which concerns me is the extent to which curricula of degree programmes in higher education are being redrawn, approaches to teaching and assessment are being rethought, and new partnerships and strategies forged to support university learning, but with a view to ways that purport to address the needs of students and their learning over the life course within and beyond the university. One way to view the developments is in terms of the encroachment of the needs employers have, or think that they have, as regards the publicly funded curricula, with the effect of undermining the core disciplinary knowledge of a subject by displacement and alien modes of accountability. This view is bolstered by one interpretation of Michael Gibbons (et al) in "The New Production of Knowledge". For Gibbons (et al) "real world" problems are transdisciplinary in the sense of being defined outside any one particular discipline, whilst agents of separately defined disciplines may yet be put to service and contribute collaboratively to solve it, so demonstrating the (apparently contingent) utility of higher education. Stephen Rowland warns us that this view may rest ultimately on the assumption of a groundless a-disciplinarity, that is that those who know what the real problem is need no specialism at all, except commercial nous, perhaps. It is a fair warning. However, a more charitable definition of transdisciplinarity is that those who can see the real problems do need a thorough disciplinary training, just that they need to be able to go beyond it too (a definition closer to M.F.D.Young's "connective specialism"). This requires a training in critical reflexivity which universities offer students only inconsistently (not that the imposed systems of accountability could pick this inconsistency up). If academics can deign actually to take control of the skills agenda rather than evade it then they can wrest it from the "thin" conception of disciplines which non-specialists can understand and can place it firmly in the "thick" conception (after Michael Luntley's distinction) deserved by disciplinary specialists, which include the once novice students who graduate from degree programmes. Those students can make the transition to the next stage of their lifelong learning in principle, come what may, but some transitions are better than others in practice. I use as one illustration the generic training requirements arising from the Roberts Report and other initiatives in the last five years and being imposed top down on how we conduct research degree programmes in UK universities. I use as the other illustration accounting education and the Chartered Accountancy profession, through a project I worked for at Warwick Business School. Academics need to be receptive to what is in fact disciplinary expertise developed outside the academy in this case. At the same time this is a profession in some need of transdisciplinary guidance, in particular through Beckett and Hager’s “knowledge as judgment” in workplace scenarios, to realize its professionalism in the important ways which have, arguably, lapsed and precipitated the financial scandals of 2001 and following and still undergoing legal proceedings this year and next.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Subjects: H Social Sciences
L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC5201 Education extension. Adult education. Continuing education
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BD Speculative Philosophy
Divisions: Faculties > University wide - Teaching/Research Groups > Centre for the Study of Higher Education
Depositing User: Martin Gough
Date Deposited: 16 Aug 2010 15:24
Last Modified: 21 May 2011 23:49
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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