Zen and the art of transdisciplinary postgraduate studies: identifying, encouraging and evaluation quality

2006 ALTC Associate Teaching Fellow

Keywords: ,

Professor Cynthia Mitchell

Fellowship years: 2006 - 2009

Abstract: Researchers and research students are engaged in problems that require approaches that transcend disciplines, at least in part because problems of society are increasingly complex and interdependent and cannot be tackled adequately from specific individual disciplines. In these realms, the whole must be greater than the sum of the parts. Supervising research students working in these ways brings particular challenges. Prominent among these challenges is the question of how to recognise and ensure quality in the processes and outputs of their labours when they are drawing on disciplines, theories, and methodologies with deeply different ways of understanding the world around us. This Fellowship sought to shed light on both the summative criteria that might be helpful for evaluating the outputs of such research – a thesis, papers, etc – as well as the formative processes supervisors and students might use to engender such criteria. The approach in the fellowship was deeply collaborative – an action research, iterative co-creation with colleagues from around the country who share a passion for high quality inter and transdisciplinary research that makes a difference in the world at large. Summary of outcomes: 1) Seven quality criteria for inter and transdisciplinary research outputs, explored and explained in a resource document; 2) A set of 50 or so ideas for good practice that help students and supervisors develop the necessary skills and insights to be able to demonstrate the criteria. These are explored and explained in a resource document; 3) A set of workshop resources that can be used by individual academics or academic developers to explore and extend participants’ experiences and skills in this type of work; and 4) Two journal articles and a train-the-trainer workshop at the Quality in Postgraduate Research conference are planned in 2010.

Fellowship discipline: Postgraduate