What’s needed to enable the integration of concepts, theories, methods, and results across disciplines? Why is communication among experts important, but not sufficient? Interdisciplinary experts must also meta-cognize: both individually and as a team they must monitor, evaluate and regulate their cognitive processes and mental representations. Without this, expertise will function suboptimally both for individuals and teams. Metacognition is not an easy task, though, and deserves more attention in both training and collaboration processes than it usually gets. Why is metacognition so challenging and how can it be facilitated?
How can we adequately prepare and train students to navigate transdisciplinary environments? How can we develop hybrid spaces in our universities that are suitable for transdisciplinary education?
These questions were considered by a plenary panel, which I organised and chaired at the International Transdisciplinarity Conference 2017 at Leuphana University, Germany. Three major educational requirements were identified:
long-term collaborations with businesses, as well as non-governmental, governmental and community organisations
How can we effectively teach interdisciplinary research to undergraduate and masters students? What is needed to encompass research ranging from cultural analysis of an Etruscan religious symbol to the search for a sustainable solution for tomato farming in drying areas? Given that there is no predetermined set of theories, methods and insights, as is the case with disciplinary research, what would an interdisciplinary textbook cover? How can such a textbook accommodate the fact that interdisciplinary research usually requires students to collaborate with each other, for which they also need to be able to articulate their own cognitive processes? Understandably, a textbook for interdisciplinary research must focus in a rather general sense on the process implied in such research.
In teaching more than 15 cohorts of undergraduate and masters students at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS) at the University of Amsterdam, who are conducting research projects in interdisciplinary teams and with a strong emphasis on empirical research, we have developed an IIS model. This model is arranged in four research phases: orientation, preparation, data (collection and analysis) and finalization. The key tasks in each phase are summarised in the following figure.