Defining Interdisciplinarity for Grinnell College
The Expanding Knowledge Initiative challenges us to explore what exactly is meant by interdisciplinary teaching and research. This is a term that is defined variously, even on our own campus. Furthermore, however it is defined, interdisciplinarity is a moving target as disciplines gradually expand into new areas of inquiry and adopt as their own some of the theories of other disciplines and as areas of study that developed outside of traditional disciplines develop their own distinctive methodologies and theoretical base.
The College community will have to develop an understanding of the term that best supports the goals of the Expanding Knowledge Initiative, best serves our students, and contributes to the vitality of our teaching and research. Such an understanding will emerge from discussions, collaborative work among faculty from different disciplines, and from exploring different models for teaching. Already, a number of you have begun to posit some definitions. These have emerged in conversations, in the Common Grounds lunches, and in the department and concentration responses to the EKI questions that we posed a few weeks ago.
Over the next couple of semesters, we intend to provide some structured opportunities for College faculty members to explore the meaning of interdisciplinarity. You may find useful IDS_terms.doc resource manual by Carolyn Haynes, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Miami University in Ohio, of different kinds of scholarship that reach beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries. We believe that these definitions can serve as a starting point for our own discussions. Follow this link to a PDF file of the full text of Haynes's manual.