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DESIGNING INTERDISCIPLINARY CURRICULUM IN HIGHER EDUCATION: ARE WE UNDERSTANDING AND DOING THE SAME?

B. Janiunaite, N. Putriene

Kaunas University of Technology (LITHUANIA)
Higher education curriculum discloses changed relations between higher education, knowledge and society (Light, Cox, & Calkins, 2009). On the one hand, societal problems become more and more complex; it becomes impossible to solve them by the means of one discipline. On the other hand, the need to solve these problems by considering the context and specificity of their emergence, as well as the necessity to strengthen collaboration between public and private sectors, to integrate fundamental and practical knowledge occurs. These tendencies highlight the need to produce dynamic, easily applied, constantly rethought knowledge ‘beyond’ disciplines. This requires a transdisciplinary curriculum (Carayannis & Campbell, 2006; Davies & Devlin, 2010; Hyun, 2011; Light et al., 2009).

Multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary study programmes are designed and implemented at higher education institutions. However, a clear definition of these programmes is still a problem. As Knight, Lattuca, Kimball, & Reason (2013) note, in real life even lecturers of the same study programme refer to it in different ways.

However, different trends of multiple disciplinarity raise different aims for studies, require different consolidation of disciplines and collaboration intensity of persons participating in the study process. Thus a confusion of terms may provoke misunderstandings and even conflicts in academic strata; this aggravates the situation or even makes it impossible for new study programmes designed on the basis of several disciplines to emerge.
One may note that different researchers not only define these programmes in different ways but also disclose different aspects and characteristics of separate study programmes. Thus it is necessary to provide rationale for the characteristics of different study programmes and identify the essential differences of these programmes, which become evident in defining these programmes.

Due to these reasons, the article addresses the following questions: how particular is the phenomenon of interdisciplinarity? How is it possible to define different study programmes and what essential characteristics of these programmes should be disclosed in order to properly identify them, and later – to construct and realize them?

The first part of the article discusses the typology of interdisciplinary activities and discloses the duality of the term ‘interdisciplinarity’. The second part analyzes how it is possible to define different trends of multiple disciplinarity. The third part analyzes definitions of multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary study programmes, as well discloses the essential characteristics of interdisciplinary curriculum.