Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to everyone out in the blogosphere!!! The spirit of liberation is blowing through the School For Tomorrow. The first of the fixed periods has disappeared in the morning sessions as the floaters (math and science) no longer have assigned times and lengths of presentation. We are moving forward!!! It began with breakout TDP and is now gaining momentum.

I want to attempt a definition of a Trans-Disciplinary Program. Bruder describes it "The transdisciplinary approach is a framework for allowing members of an educational team to contribute knowledge and skills, collaborate with other members, and collectively determine the services that most would benefit a child." He goes on to say "A transdisciplinary approach requires the team members to share roles and systematically cross discipline boundaries. The primary purpose of this approach is to pool and integrate the expertise of team members so that more efficient and comprehensive assessment and intervention services may be provided. (Bruder, M.B. (1994). p71).

In German speaking countries, a trans-disciplinary approach looks to the " integration of diverse forms of research, and includes specific methods for relating scientific knowledge in problem-solving" ( Mittelstrass, 2003). Jean Piaget introduced the idea of trans-disciplinarity as the unity of knowledge beyond the disciplines. The International Center for Trans-disciplinary Research (CIRET) established the idea that trans-disciplinary approaches transfer the methods of the disciplines to each other to examine a problem and is radically different from interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches.

Basarab Nicolescu, a Romanian philosopher, describes three methodological postulates that are necessary to operate from a trans-disciplinary perspective. First is the idea that reality exists on many different levels and must be approached from as many of them as possible. Second, the logic of the middle of reality, where things tend to go, must be recognized and finally, third, the immeasurable complexity of reality. The purpose of trans-disciplinary study is to understand the present world in terms of its social reality. The space between the levels of reality and the disciplines is full of information which we can make sense of only through a trans-disciplinary approach.

Collaboration is also an essential characteristic of a trans-disciplinary approach. Everyone involved in the learning must be a part of the definition of the learning objectives. It is through this collaboration that everyone involved in a trans-disciplinary approach "becomes uniquely capable of engaging with different ways of knowing the world, generating new knowledge, and helping stakeholders understand and incorporate the results or lessons learned by the research" (Wickson, & Carew, . Russell, A.W., 2006).

So a trans-disciplinary approach starts from a simple premise. There are many ways of knowing the world. A TDP group must then look at the world using many different methodologies or ways of knowing. The ways of the poet are as valid as the ways of the research physicist or the historian. They examine reality from a distinct perspective. All members of the group learn and use the different methodologies to examine what "they want to know". The purpose of the rest of the group is to help a learner do that. Sort of how your guild helps you on a WOW quest.

Whatever we do in our TDP sections, we must all be involved, as both teachers and learners. We all want to know stuff and we all have experience in ways of learning, of coming to know. We have to learn what others know as learners and we have to teach what we know to those who want to learn it.


  1. Hi, Norm! A valiant attempt, but no greasy sausage or subject goes down well without mustard. So, here is my "Senf":

    I am not so happy with Bruder's finishing line of "so that more efficient and comprehensive assessment and intervention services may be provided". I feel that the schooling industry needs to step away from regarding every student as a kind of intensive care patient or ward in a mental institution. This is not only arrogant and insulting but limits the students' growth more often than it helps any of them.

    The CIRET approach is the one with which we were clobbered at my previous school as their interpretation of the Common Core. It was, as so many public education reforms, an utterly ridiculous jumping through hoops for the overlords. Like jokes and smiles, things like these sometimes work great spontaneously and naturally, but never when they are forced -- as in teachers who don't know how to do English the Math way, for instance, inserting numbers once a month into a lesson in order to meet a quota. (which is exactly where that public school was going with its Common Core implementation)

    I see mentioned a lot the learning, understanding, and reality between the staked out territories of the traditional disciplines. That certainly is a very good prize to go after.

    In the collaboration you describe, I think it is worthwhile to stress not only the different ways of knowing but also that the world is huge and gigantic with many, many different things to get to know or at least have a clue about, and many more we can never hope to go after. It is therefore important to learn to select from among the plethora wisely, with your collaborators (whether they be "teachers" or "students") serving as clues or guides for figuring out priorities and what it is we can get out of exploring in a particular direction, trying all along to construct a more complete and useful bigger picture while also selecting and perfecting our personal specialties.

    I hope, you like mustard. In the U.S., I recommend Dijon as something resembling good German Senf. ;-)

    :-) @didacticdirk

  2. Norm,

    I'm wondering how you feel about TDP 1 and how we're doing with "Transdiscipinary." Whereas I feel like we've lost some of it by separating science (not our choice), the panel we did to help the students discuss their topics fits with your conclusion, "All members of the group learn and use the different methodologies to examine what 'they want to know.'" We were showing them different methodologies for going about learning their topic that they could then choose to pick up or ignore. Also, how do you feel about us choosing a 'theme' for the trimesters? I don't like it, as I feel it is restrictive and eliminates certain disciplines (science and math), but that could be my narrowmindedness. Dirk feel free to comment as well.