The 5th Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching Conference, hosted by the University of Warwick, took place virtually on 15 April 2021 and brought together a diverse range of speakers and audiences including those involved in Liberal Arts, joint honours degrees, and single interdisciplinary modules.
Staff and students from the School for Cross-faculty Studies presented during the conference, sharing their experiences with collaboration, co-construction of knowledge, and practice underpinning interdisciplinary teaching and learning.
Dr Linda de Greef from the University of Amsterdam kicked off the conference with a thought-provoking keynote address, encouraging participants to consider how to create a collaborative and student-centred interdisciplinary learning environment, help students see beyond the limits of a single discipline, and break down barriers between academia and society. Linda’s talk mainly focused on using assessments as an integral part of learning, considering ways we can rethink how students are assessed. Linda left participants with a call to break new ground and take steps to create a culture that emphasises meaningful assessment.
Following the keynote address, the conference continued with different breakout rooms covering a variety of topics. In the ‘Embedding Interdisciplinarity’ breakout room, Dr Kirsten Harris, Senior Teaching Fellow in Liberal Arts, delivered a talk entitled ‘Navigating Utopia: Module Design for the Co-production of Knowledge’. Kirsten's talk explored interdisciplinary practices and experiences, focusing on her optional Liberal Arts module, Utopia: Text, Theory, Practice. Kirsten shared her experiences with the design and execution of this module, which centres students as collaborative co-producers of knowledge.
“The curriculum is not limited by my own personal knowledge, and students are encouraged to pursue their particular academic interests and areas of expertise.”
Later in the programme, academic staff in Liberal Arts hosted a workshop on ‘Embedding Undergraduate Research as Interdisciplinary Pedagogy', organised by Dr Kirsten Harris. During this session, Dr Lauren Bird, Dr Bryan Brazeau, Dr Kirsten Harris, and Dr Gavin Schwartz-Leeper used the Liberal Arts degree at Warwick as a case study to explore the value of embedding advanced undergraduate research as a pedagogical tool for interdisciplinary learning and understanding. Throughout this session, participants were encouraged to share their experiences and ideas, exploring how undergraduate research could be embedded in different kinds of interdisciplinary programmes.
“Undergraduate research is utilised as a resource for collaborative, student-led learning in all core and optional Liberal Arts modules.”
In another breakout room, final-year GSD and Business Studies student, Luke Netherclift, and final-year Liberal Arts student, Celine Nithila-George, helped deliver a workshop on ‘Learning from Each Other through Design Thinking’. In this session, participants heard about co-creation with students, staff, and other stakeholders through the Warwick Secret Challenge, "a model based on design thinking principles, which reimagines student engagement and creates a number of distinct affordances including increased diversity, student engagement in innovation and research, active creativity around policy and experience design and skills development". As Innovation Fellows working with the Warwick Enterprise team, Luke and Celine have been involved in the Warwick Secret Challenge in both on-campus and virtual iterations of the interdisciplinary challenge.
The conference was a great opportunity to learn from each other and we look forward to next year’s conference to be hosted by the University of Birmingham!