Can teacher collaboration overcome interdisciplinary barriers in a university structured around traditional disciplines? A case study using climate change
Pharo, EJ and Davison, A and Warr, K and Nursey-Bray, M and Beswick, K and Wapstra, E and Jones, C, Can teacher collaboration overcome interdisciplinary barriers in a university structured around traditional disciplines? A case study using climate change, Teaching in Higher Education, 17, (5) pp. 497-507. ISSN 1356-2517 (2012) [Refereed Article]
A teacher network was formed at an Australian university in order to better promote interdisciplinary student learning on the complex social-environmental problem of climate change. Rather than leaving it to students to piece together disciplinary responses, eight teaching academics collaborated on the task of exposing students to different types of knowledge in a way that was more than the summing of disciplinary parts. With a part-time network facilitator providing cohesion, network members were able to teach into each otherís classes, and share material and student activities across a range of units that included business, zoology, marine science, geography and education. Participants reported that the most positive aspects of the project were the collegiality and support for teaching innovation provided by peers. However, participants also reported being time- poor and overworked. Maintaining the collaboration beyond the initial one year project proved difficult because without funding for the network facilitator, participants were unable to dedicate the time required to meet and collaborate on shared activities. In order to strengthen teacher collaboration in a university whose administrative structures are predominantly discipline-based, there is need for recognition of the benefits of interdisciplinary learning to be matched by recognition of the need for financial and other resources to support collaborative teaching initiatives.
interdisciplinary, climate change, community of practice, workload, faculty learning community