‘How to teach border-crossing skills: interdisciplinary courses in a mixed classroom’

Activity: Lecture / PresentationAcademic


‘How to teach border-crossing skills: interdisciplinary courses in a mixed classroom’

Presenter: dr. P.H. (Nelleke) Moser, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

As the director of the Graduate School of Humanities (VU Amsterdam), I would like to discuss the challenges involved in teaching core courses in the Humanities Research Master, where students from different countries and disciplines meet. How can we use the classroom’s double diversity to teach students interdisciplinary skills?

Contents of the activity:
Using a case study, I would like to discuss the interdisciplinary character of three core courses within the Research Master Humanities at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. These courses bring together students from different disciplines and from different nationalities, and are taught by professors from different disciplines and from different nationalities. In these courses, the clash between disciplines seems to be a bigger problem than the clash between nationalities. Students seem to prefer to improve the skills that are relevant to their own disciplines, instead of learning to collaborate with students from other disciplines. In the meanwhile, both interdisciplinary skills and international skills are part of the learning objectives of the Research Master Humanities. How can I use the challenges in these courses to our advantage?
There are some background articles that I would like to bring to the table. Shân Wareing has explained the reluctance to take part in cross-disciplinary courses in terms of Orientalism: by emphasizing the differences between disciplines, students would boast their own discipline (Wareing 2009). Others have tried and tested methods to teach interdisciplinary skills in an international environment. Schmidt and others (2012) discuss the importance and the challenges of interdisciplinary research projects, and present an exemplary project. One of their suggestions is to cross one border at the time (first international, then interdisciplinary), and use the newly acquired ‘border crossing’ skills to take it to a next level. Finally, Reich and Reich (2006) advocate ‘culturally competent practices to facilitate interdisciplinary research and practice’. These include an awareness of a possible power imbalance, and of one’s own disciplinary vernacular to avoid miscommunication. These approaches may help solve the issues described above, and they all deal with the topic of the conference: Interdisciplinarity in Global Contexts.
Literature cited:
Stephanie M. Reich and Jennifer A. Reich, ‘Cultural Competence in Interdisciplinary Collaborations: A Method for Respecting Diversity in Research Partnerships’, in American Journal for Community Psychology 38 (2006): 51-62.
Amanda H. Schmidt and others, ‘A New Model for Training Graduate Students to Conduct Interdisciplinary, Interorganizational and International Research’, in BioScience 62 (2012) 3: 296-304.
Shân Wareing, ‘Disciplines, discourse and Orientalism: the implications for postgraduate certificates in learning and teaching in higher education’, in Studies in Higher Education 34 (2009) 8: 917-928.

How this relates to the theme of the conference:
The three core courses all deal with interdisciplinarity in a global context by uniting students from different nationalities and different disciplines. They will have to learn the necessary skills to be able to cross multiple borders, in the classroom practice as well as their future careers.
Period23 Oct 201926 Oct 2019
Event titleAIS Conference "Interdisciplinarity in Global Contexts"
Event typeConference
LocationAmsterdamShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational