The Interdisciplinary skills to combine knowledge, analyse and think critically is the one of the intellectual skills identified and listed in the “Guideline for integrating Soft skills in HEIs curricula”. This is the first result of the Enhancing the presence of Soft Skills in Higher Education Curricula (Skills4Employability) Erasmus+ project, which seeks to support universities in their efforts to improve the quality of education by adapting curricula to the soft-skills demands of the labour market and, as a result, ensure a greater impact on the employment situation of future graduates. The project aims at strengthening HEIs capacity to assess whether and to what extent their programs match the soft skills that are particularly valued in the labour market.
Interdisciplinary skill to combine knowledge, analysis and critical thinking is a cognitive skill that involves several levels of the Bloom’s taxonomy: remember facts, analyse them (which implies understanding) and think critically or evaluate them.
Figure 1. Bloom’s taxonomy
Interdisciplinary skills refer to the ability of exploring content or solving a problem by integrating knowledge and experience which come from more than one field or subject. It is best to think about interdisciplinarity as a way of thinking, which allows one to draw insights from diverse disciplines and eventually apply them to the area of focus at hand. It is an approach that can remove barriers between sciences, knowledge fields and even practices. Thus, interdisciplinary thinking promotes innovation, open-mindedness and creativity (https://reboot-project.eu/).
This skill cannot be satisfactorily addressed using single methods or approaches (Klein, 1990, p. 196). To successfully engage in interdisciplinary, it is required to take a critical stand on disciplinary limitations, solving complex problems across disciplines, communicating across disciplines, handling interdisciplinary collaboration and teamwork, as well as using integrative potentials to create innovations (Brassler & Dettmers, 2017).
Why is this Soft Skill important?
Interdisciplinary teaching and learning in higher education institutions has been identified as a key to twenty-first century education. Twenty-first century skills are defined as critical thinking and problem solving; communication; collaboration and team building; and creativity and innovation. At the university level, these skills are highly aligned with interdisciplinarity (Brassler & Dettmers, 2017).
The demands of work are greater than ever, and thus employers in all fields are looking for so-called T-shaped employees; ones that can combine technical, job-specific knowledge with business and people skills. Interdisciplinary thinking and skills are valuable tools for any prospective or current employee, regardless of her/his formal education or background (https://reboot-project.eu/).
This skill is important because without the combination of relevant interdisciplinary knowledge and analysis graduates will not be able to be competent, or act critically, in the workplace. It is the base of problem solving based on existing theories and procedures, i.e., problem solving based on existing scientific evidence.
Globally, the workplace is transformed: new ideas, new products, services and most importantly processes are increasingly demanding a workforce that is able to deal with knowledge of the work at hand, a facility with technology, an ability to engage in and work with cross-functional teams. Thus, employees who have interdisciplinary training or have acquired interdisciplinary skills to work and collaborate with others, have substantial advantage in competitive and highly innovative ecosystems.
How can this Soft Skill be assessed? Give an example
The construct of competencies is an integrative construct of knowledge, skills and attitudes. Therefore, evaluative assessment should offer an opportunity to show this integration. Competences are demonstrated, evaluated by means of performances or demonstrations.
Miller’s pyramid (1990) can be a helpful tool to identify the best coherent assessment strategies according with the learning outcomes.
Figure 2. Miller’s pyramid
Some examples for assessing the interdisciplinary competence are:
- Literary essays
- Case studies
- Final projects
- Peer review
- Problem based learning (PBL)
- Project based learning (PjBL)
Brassler, M., Dettmers, J. (2017) How to enhance interdisciplinary competence- Interdisciplinary Problem-Based Learning versus Interdisciplinary Project-Based Learning. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, vol 11 (2). Available at: https://doi.org/10.7771/1541-5015.1686
Klein, J. T. (1990) Interdisciplinarity: History, theory, and practice. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press.
Rebooting, Re-rooting and Re-skilling Unemployed and Underemployed Higher Education Graduates for Work 4.0. ERASMUS + Strategic partnership – Adult Education. 2018-1-FI01-KA204-047188
Prepared by AQU Catalunya