The IDL Network is one of several outcomes of the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s (RSE) 2019 conference on “Interdisciplinary Learning: Creative Thinking for a Complex World”. At the conference, a questionnaire was circulated to around 160 delegates, respondents to which (practitioners, school leaders and teacher educators) supported the establishment of a teacher forum, which the RSE has co-ordinated.
An overarching challenge to the implementation of IDL is the lack of a common understanding and clarity about what constitutes IDL. Improving our understanding of IDL and related approaches to connecting subject learning by various means within the education community is therefore a priority. The Network has been established as a WordPress website with the aim of forming and building a broad community of practice around IDL.
Featured image: Queensferry Crossing. CC BY-2.0. Author: Tony Hisgett.
Why is IDL Important?
The 21st Century world has proved to be an increasingly unpredictable place. Its global challenges are all complex. They can’t be properly understood within any one discipline or curriculum area, but require interdisciplinary thinking and working across the curriculum. These challenges include globalisation (of manufacture, technologies, goods and their supply chains, information flow and ideas), pandemic diseases, food and water, biodiversity, energy, climate change, environmental degradation, demographic change and more. All of these challenges have consequences for health, environment, employment, economic development and inequalities of income, resource and opportunity.
The ‘interconnectedness’ of the above challenges both to each other and to the many areas of knowledge and understanding (the disciplines) that underpin them is now clear. The long-term impacts will be particularly acute for those currently in our education systems. How do we prepare learners to thrive in this increasingly uncertain and unpredictable world?
The need for our education system to produce creative and curious learners, problem-solvers, collaborators and critical thinkers with rich experiences of both interdisciplinary and subject learning as a natural way of learning, thinking and working is clear and urgent. Problems and challenges of this magnitude can only be tackled and resolved through learning that draws on knowledge and understanding from more than one discipline. They require the capacity to recontextualise disciplinary knowledge when it is transferred from one discipline and applied to another in order to resolve problems, gain new insights and improve outcomes. A greater ethos of collaboration in learning and teaching will be a required.
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