One thing I did gain from being involved in the creation of CIDRA (Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts) was a real enthusiasm for breaking the disciplinary boundaries – and as someone who has taught across a number of subjects (most noticeably History and Media Studies, but also Digital specialisms, American Studies…) this is an article of concern:

Are students being short-changed by a narrow approach to learning? Matthew Reisz reports

Although the division of knowledge into discrete, and often tightly policed, disciplinary blocks may be effective in creating “academic tribes and territories”, it often fails to serve the needs of students and society, a scholar has argued.

Gill Nicholls, deputy vice-chancellor (academic development) at the University of Surrey, discussed “the changing nature of disciplines and scholarship” at the recent International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities, in Granada, Spain.

In what she described as “a provocative paper meant to stimulate discussion”, she explored the implication of the power that individual disciplines have on teaching, learning and pedagogy.

In today’s university, she argued, “academics are deluged by vast quantities of new information. To avoid drowning, and to attain some kind of security, (they) seek to come ashore…on ever-smaller islands of learning and enquiry.”

Yet “the problems of society do not come in discipline-shaped blocks” and it is all too easy to find recent examples of “the dangerous, sometimes fatal narrowness of policies recommended by those (who claim to) possess expert knowledge”.

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