Reflections on Transdisciplinary Research:
A Field Study on Knowledge Building in Collaborative Problem Solving
Stephen M. Fiore
Solving today's most challenging problems requires innovative, integrated breakthroughs and novel solutions that transcend individual disciplines, reaching a deeper level of knowledge integration. However, achieving such integration through teamwork is challenging due to cognitive and collaborative dynamics that can arise when interacting on complex problems. To address this, theory and methods from varied disciplines need to be adapted and integrated to study their efficacy in learning and performance when doing transdisciplinary research. In this presentation I describe an NSF funded field study of transdisciplinary teamwork focused on coastal resilience in the Chesapeake Bay region of the USA. First, to promote collaborative learning, a team of faculty coaches guided a diverse set of graduate students from the natural and physical coastal, marine and environmental sciences, engineering, design, and social and economic sciences. Second, transdisciplinary pedagogies were adapted to enhance student understanding on collaborative knowledge building for complex problems. Here, we emphasized the development of conceptual models capable of capturing system level problems as well as integrating diverse disciplinary perspectives. Third, to foster individual and team learning, an intervention focusing on reflection in teamwork processes was used to ensure students monitor both task of transdisciplinary problem solving, as well as the teamwork processes engaged while collaborating. Findings are discussed in the context of changes in perceptions in teamwork as well as in the nature of reflections on teamwork offered. The implications for scalability for understanding and improving team problem solving when interdisciplinary collaborators come from different fields and professions will also be discussed.
Dr. Stephen M. Fiore is Director, Cognitive Sciences Laboratory, and Pegasus Professor with the University of Central Florida's Cognitive Sciences Program in the Department of Philosophy and Institute for Simulation and Training. He maintains a multidisciplinary research interest that incorporates aspects of the cognitive, social, organizational, and computational sciences in the investigation of learning and performance in individuals and teams. He is Past President of the International Network for the Science of Team Science, and Past President for the Interdisciplinary Network for Group Research. He is co-author of a book on “Accelerating Expertise” (2013) and is a co-editor of volumes on Shared Cognition (2012), Macrocognition in Teams (2008), Distributed Training (2007), and Team Cognition (2004). Dr. Fiore has also co-authored over 250 scholarly publications in the area of learning, memory, and problem solving in individuals and groups.
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