Welcome to the Disciplinary Thinking blogsite! The purpose of this site it to provide information and resources from our HEA/JISC-funded OER project, and also to discuss the use of subject- or discipline-based ways of thinking and practising for enhancing learning and teaching in higher education.
Prior to starting at the University of bath, just over a year ago, I worked in discipline-based educational development for over 15 years. Through national projects including the Higher Education Academy’s GEES Subject Centre I was fortunate to be immersed in the development of learning & teaching within a small range of subjects.
This brought me into contact with some really exciting research projects, particularly in the US, that were exploring the nature of expertise in the geosciences. What makes someone an expert geoscientist, as opposed to someone who just knows a lot about rocks? Our interest stemmed from a desire to enhance learning and teaching, the assumption being that by better understanding and elucidating the expert ways of thinking and practising in a discipline we might be better able to support student learning. So rather than looking at subject content per se, we also considered the skills, concepts, cognition and culture of the discipline.
The coming together of geoscientists, philosophers, cognitive scientists, psychologists and researchers on learning led to the opening up of understanding of how experts think and practice in the geosciences and to a new field of inter-disciplinary research: geocognition.
This is my experience in geoscience; but I’m sure the story is similar in other subjects. In addition, over the last 5 years or so there’s been increasing interest in exploring learning and teaching in the disciplines through e.g. Threshold Concepts and projects such as Decoding the Disciplines.
But I’m now in a very different role; I am now responsible for supporting the enhancement of learning and teaching across a range of disciplines. So I’m keen to build on my previous experience, rather than engaging in discipline-based educational development, I would like to explore discipline-orientated educational development. That is, taking advantage of multi-disciplinary activities, such as workshops, to support individuals to unpack their disciplinary ways of thinking and practising.
I was fortunate to gain help for this in the form of funding from the HEA / JISC for this project to produce Open Educational Resources (OERs). The aim of our project is to create new materials for use in generic workshops like these and on more formal courses that help academic staff to explore learning and teaching in their discipline. Having funding for this has given me the great benefit of being able to share ideas and utilise the experience and expertise of other colleagues; both through the consultants, Colleen McKenna and Jane Hughes who are working on developing the materials, and through getting feedback from potential end users through workshops, a webinar, conference presentations and this blog.
So thank you for reading! I hope you find it useful and interesting and I encourage you to feedback to us on the ideas and activities we will be making available via this blog. Drafts of our materials will be uploaded if you would like trial or review them; and the final versions will be freely available for use through a Creative Commons license.
Helen King, Project Manager