To understand and be understood: facilitating interdisciplinary learning through the promotion of communicative competence
Journal of Geography in Higher Education
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Whilst interdisciplinarity has become a central concern of research and learning in geography, few from the discipline have considered the practical facilitation of interdisciplinarity in the classroom. Module convenors, I argue, must pay greater attention to how learners engage and negotiate with peers and perspectives from other disciplines. In this paper, I focus on my own efforts in designing and teaching a second year undergraduate course on health, biomedicine, and society, to illuminate the opportunities and challenges facing teaching staff who seek to provide opportunities for interdisciplinary learning in the classroom. Drawing upon theories of communication, I demonstrate the significance of developing “communicative competence” as a pathway to successful interdisciplinary learning. Unless learners from one discipline can understand, and be understood by, peers from other disciplines, the accomplishment of interdisciplinary learning is undermined. Interdisciplinary modules should include learning outcomes that facilitate student development in this area. Approaching interdisciplinary learning through the lens of communicative competence casts critical attention upon the central abilities and cultural sensitivities that are the hallmarks of interdisciplinary collaboration – from negotiating meaning to critical disciplinary awareness – and highlights the lessons that interdisciplinarity poses for disciplines, such as geography, tasked with preparing students for interdisciplinary learning.
- Linguistics