H. Jenkins, M. Schaddelee

Otago Polytechnic (NEW ZEALAND)
Drawing on the teaching, delivery and design experiences, of two distinctive programmes, within one area of a tertiary institution, this paper seeks to highlight the challenges encountered with creating a learning experience through interdisciplinary projects.

Vygotsky (1978) and Barron et al. (1998) point out that providing learners with opportunities to solve a simulated problem or identify similarities and differences between contrasting cases establishes a level of shared knowledge among the learners and prepares them for the more open-ended nature of project work.

Bajada and Trayler (2013) point out that business education programmes tend to sit on a continuum from multidisciplinary, where students are taught mainly in separate courses and need to discover the synergies between the discipline areas, through to truly interdisciplinary, where student are engaged through real-world problems from different disciplinary perspectives. The business case that supports the interdisciplinary approach, include drivers such as a desire to prepare graduates with the ability to think outside the silos of the disciplines as well as a call for employers for graduates to possess more of the so called soft skills rather than technical skills (Bajada & Trayler, 2013).

The first programme is a Certificate in Travel and Tourism which uses 4 integrated projects and is delivered using an open platform (WikiEducator) and the second programme a Bachelor of Applied Management which uses 5 interdisciplinary projects for their first year students. The two programmes are distinct in many ways and this will be further explored through the challenges we have identified.

Creating integrated interdisciplinary projects and curricula has not been without its challenges. The learning has been steep, significant and is ongoing for both staff and students. We hope that by sharing our experiences on these two distinctive programmes we will help to further develop resource around this area.

[1] Barron, B., Schwartz, D., Vye, N., Moore, A., Petrosino, A., Zech, L.,…The Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1998).Doing with understanding; Lessons from research on problem-and project-based learning. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 9(3&4), 271-311
[2] Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. (M. Cole, J. Scribner, V. John-Steiner, & E. Souberman, Eds.) Cambridge, MA: Havard University Press.
[3] Bajada, C., & Trayler, R. (2013). Interdisciplinary business education: Curriculum through collaboration. Education & Training, 55(4), 385- 402.i: