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A pedagogy of connection for working across and between disciplines. Some epistemological and methodological considerations

Patrick Dillon

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Elsewhere (Dillon 2006), I make a case for working across and between disciplines in higher education, utilising an organising framework based on integrativism. Working integratively is presented as a creative activity. The application of integrativism to the curriculum leads to the notion of a pedagogy of connection. A pedagogy of connection consists of a framework for focusing on the contexts of connection and tools for making connections.
     Integrative work inevitably generates a number of intellectual and practical tensions. Thus a pedagogy of connection must also take account of the intellectual currencies and rules of the contributing disciplines and ensure that border transactions are properly negotiated. In this paper, I look at some epistemological and methodological issues arising from two published cross-disciplinary works: Vargish & Mook’s Inside Modernism (1997), and Finn’s Past Poetic (2004).
     Vargish & Mook (1997) uncover some common structures and values that underlie modernism. In order to demonstrate that physics, painting and fiction of the period share a high degree of recognisable, definable value, they identify three cultural diagnostics through which they abstract the historically defining values. The diagnostics are relativity theory, cubism and modernist narrative. Finn (2004) explores how two Irish poets, W.B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney, used archaeology in their work and how, in turn, their work may be used as a filter for a reading of the history of archaeology.
     From an analysis of these works, I explore tensions that occur at the intersections of disciplines. I use the notion of boundary objects to conceptualise these tensions and examine their implications for a pedagogy of connection. Walker & Creanor (2005) describe a boundary as a discontinuity in some form of practice, often determined by limits of effective communication. Boundary encounters occur as people interact across these boundaries. They may be interpersonal or mediated by artefacts. Boundary crossings are the flow of ideas and across boundaries often facilitated by personal networks.

Dillon, P. 2006. Creativity, integrativism and a pedagogy of connection, International Journal of Thinking skills and Creativity, 1 (2), forthcoming

Finn, C. 2004. Past Poetic. Archaeology in the poetry of W.B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney. London, Duckworth.

Vargish, T. & Mook, D.E. 1999. Inside Modernism. Relativity theory, Cubism and Narrative. New Haven, Yale University Press.

Walker, S. & Creanor, L. 2005. Crossing complex boundaries: transnational online education in European trade unions, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 21, 343-354.

Author Bio(s)

Patrick Dillon is Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Exeter, UK. He has visiting positions at the Universities of Helsinki and Joensuu in Finland. His research is in (i) cross-disciplinarity and a pedagogy of connection, (ii) education, culture and technology, (iii) e-learning and multimedia in education, and (iv) theories of design and design education. He has also published in the fields of environmental educational and landscape studies.