Groundbreaking book calls for transdisciplinary approach
A new state-of-the-art book calls for a shift from siloed disciplinary thinking to transdisciplinary methods and collaborative learning in order to more effectively deal with our planet’s most pressing issues.
Transdisciplinary Theory, Practice and Education: The Art of Collaborative Research and Collective Learning was unveiled at a launch event at the UTS Chancellery last month.
The book is edited by Associate Professor Dena Fam, UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures, Professor Linda Neuhauser, School of Public Health at the University of California, and Professor Paul Gibbs, Centre for Education Research and Scholarship from the School of Health and Education, Middlesex University.
It includes contributions from nearly 50 authors from around the globe including many of the world’s leading thinkers in transdisciplinary research, practice and education.
In her opening speech at the launch, Professor Kate McGrath, UTS Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), highlighted the book’s emphasis on the increasing importance of sharing expertise and different perspectives to find solutions to issues like poverty, social equity and climate change.
“All of these issues have solutions from a singular point of view, and then we ask - why are they not working? It’s the importance of bringing people together to speak to those solutions and to ask - are we the right people in the room? It’s often about bringing people together who don’t agree. The more we can create environments that don’t just replicate our own thought patterns, the better it will be,” Professor McGrath said.
Professor Neuhauser spoke about the book in an international context, and acknowledged the valuable contribution indigenous knowledge and local community perspectives make to collaborative research endeavors. She also credited the book’s various contributors who provided in-depth examples of complex international projects and curricula, and what they learned from each other as a result of this. Professor Neuhauser prompted the audience to question whether there were actually any ‘simple’ problems we work on, or whether all our research and projects deal with complexity in some way, therefore benefiting from collaborative efforts.
Associate Professor Fam discussed how the book came about through an international network of like-minded academics with a strong desire to learn how collaborative research occurred in practice.
“We came together to write this book from very different cultural perspectives, geographical contexts, and approaches to collaborative research. The tools, methods and perspectives we use in our research and curriculum development was therefore diverse, and very different in Australia for example, as opposed to Switzerland, China or US.” Associate Professor Fam said.
The launch was followed by a cross-faculty panel* of UTS scholars who shared experiences and ideas on how to both scale up and enrich collaborative research and collective learning across UTS, particularly across faculties. They explored the cultural and institutional changes required to embed transdisciplinary approaches to research and education, the need to bridge the gap between science and culture and how transdisciplinary ways of working could be valued and measured, as well as sharing examples of how students are already working across disciplines.
Transdisciplinary Theory, Practice and Education: The Art of Collaborative Research and Collective Learning can be purchased online at springer.com.
Listen to the panel discussion
*UTS panel members
- Dr Jason De Santolo, Senior Researcher Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research
- Prof Liz Harry, Director of ithree institute
- Prof Louise McWhinnie, Dean Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation
- Prof Lesley Hitchens Dean Faculty of Law
- Prof Roger Hadgraft, Director, Educational Innovation and Research, Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning)
- Dr Alexandra Crosby, Associate Head of the School of Design, Design Architecture and Building
MC and Panel Facilitator
- Professor Cynthia Mitchell, Deputy Director, Institute for Sustainable Futures