Interdisciplinary teaching and learning (13-14 July 06)

Date: 13 July, 2006 - 14 July, 2006
Location: University of Birmingham Conference Centre, Birmingham
Event type: Conference

Programme | Keynotes | Abstracts | Event report

UK Higher Education Academy Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning Group

Past event summary

Organised by the UK Higher Education Academy Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning Group, this conference provided a unique opportunity for discussion about this important, though long neglected, issue in higher education. This conference was open to practitioners in all disciplines.

Life is interdisciplinary. A single disciplinary approach cannot resolve social problems such as AIDS, environmental problems such as climate change and rising sea levels and crime. On graduation students will enter the multidisciplinary environment of the workplace. Yet in UK higher education disciplines are the building blocks of departments, journals, degree programmes, conferences and quality assurance mechanisms.

How, therefore can students and their teachers have a coherent and integrated interdisciplinary experience of higher educations? How can we ensure that students gain credit for interdisciplinary insights in their work on both single-discipline and interdisciplinary courses? Do optional course units in other subjects make for a better overall student experience or are they are distraction from the necessary outcomes of the programme?

Programme for day one: 13 July 2006
Time Edgbaston LT Sitting Room Seminar Room Four
10.30 - 11.00 Registration and coffee
11.00 - 11.05 Welcome
Edgbaston Lecture Theatre
11.05 - 11.55 Interdisciplines: subverting disciplinary mapping via the threshold
Keynote speaker: R J Ellis, University of Birmingham
Edgbaston Lecture Theatre
12.00 - 13.00 Models of how students learn, both generically and in their subject: a closer look
Shân Wareing
Teaching politics to business students: an interdisciplinary experience
Kuo-cheng Huang
Student experience of interdisciplinarity (Health and Social Care)
Donna Wareham, Lindsay Yardley, Louise Wilson, Betty Perry, Shakila Shim and Keith Seymour
13.00 - 14.15 Lunch
14.15 - 15.15 Interactive workshop session Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
Simon Steiner
Interdisciplinarity and undergraduate research
David Good and Josh Jacobs
15.15 - 16.00 Tea
16.00 - 17.15 Open networking
Convenor: Heather Witham
Edgbaston Lecture Theatre
17.30 - 18.20 Interdisciplinarity across the Atlantic: a perspective from MIT
Keynote speaker: Lori Breslow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Edgbaston Lecture Theatre
19.00 Dinner


Programme for day two: 14 July 2006
Time Edgbaston LT Sitting Room Seminar Room 4
09.30 - 10.15 We Can Work It Out: assessing interdisciplinary practice
Paul Kleiman
Interdisciplinary approaches to design: the multidisciplinary design project
Peter Long
Interdisciplinarity considered and assessed
David Good and Josh Jacobs
10.15 - 10.30 Coffee
10.30 - 11.15 Disciplines in dialogue - managing interdisciplinary degree programmes
Balasubramanyam Chandramohan
Cross-faculty interdisciplinary work or how to work with 'others'
Susana Lorenzo-Zamorano
The study of man and past environments: a contribution to ESD
Colin Brooks
11.20 - 12.05 Engineering Biological Engineering
Keith Johnstone
The case for soup and salad; working together and preserving identity in a recipe for interdisciplinary practice
Roger Penlington and Jamie Thompson
Beyond 'service' teaching? Issues in Mathematics and Modern Languages
John Canning and Michael Grove
12.10 - 12.55 Learning from Disciplines in Dialogue I
Keynote speakers: Jenny Blumhof, University of Hertfordshire and Heather Witham, Economics Network
13.00 Lunch and finish




Interdisciplines: subverting disciplinary mapping via the threshold

R J Ellis, Head of School, School of American and Canadian Studies, University of Birmingham

The talk explores how it is perhaps necessary, if interdisciplinary curriculum undertakings are to succeed, for them to establish early on for the students, besides any necessary discipline-based building blocks, and more importantly for the I-D endeavour, a set of methods and their attendant theories which will define what might be best described as the politico-didactic space in which the ID work is to be pursued. This space is neither betwixt nor between, but a liminal process of passage, through which it is necessary to pass in order to be equipped to undertake inter-disciplinary study. This transition has to be carefully planned, in detail, and step by step, to enable the students' passage into further interdisciplinary study.

Interdisciplinarity across the Atlantic: a perspective from MIT

Lori Breslow, Director, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Teaching and Learning Laboratory

MIT has sponsored a number of significant programmes in interdisciplinary curriculum development, especially involving various elements of educational technology. Since 2003, the staff of the MIT Teaching and Learning Laboratory has participated in the design and evaluation of the Teaching the Fundamentals Engineering Pedagogy project, sponsored by the Cambridge-MIT Institute. This project involved the introduction of pedagogical methods typical to Cambridge within MIT courses and vice-versa, as well as the exploration of discipline- and institution-specific pedagogical cultures and values. It has had a strongly interdisciplinary approach, involving courses in engineering, life sciences, and mathematics across the two institutions. I address some of the characteristics of pedagogy within several of these disciplines, as seen from within the context of a deliberately international collaboration. In particular I will relate the complex process of developing a definition of abstract reasoning that needed to be comparable across disciplines. I present the evaluation systems developed for the project, and discuss the fruitful work across the disciplinary divide between engineers and life scientists on the one hand, and researchers in higher education on the other. I conclude by suggesting ways in which MIT and Cambridge have surfaced issues around interdisciplinary collaborations through the project, and how these learnings inform current educational strategy and funding at MIT.

Review of Disciplines in Dialogue I

Jenny Blumhof, University of Hertfordshire, and Heather Witham, Economics Network of the HE Academy

The Interdisciplinary Group of the Higher Education Academy hosted an event on 5 December 2005 entitled "Disciplines in Dialogue". One representative from each of 42 disciplines was invited to this participatory workshop to tackle a sustainable development case study with colleagues from around the UK. The pedagogical method used was Problem-Based Learning (PBL), allowing participants to consider how PBL could be used in their own classrooms. Therefore, the aims were three-fold:

  1. to use PBL
  2. to investigate interdisciplinary approaches to sustainability given the London 2012 Olympics as a case study
  3. to gain insight into the interaction between disciplines and how to make dialogue more effective

Following on from this event, the session at this Interdisciplinary Conference will also be experiential and interactive, giving participants the chance to participant in a similar PBL exercise, hear summaries of the issues raised at the original event, review our experience and analysis, and explore the possibilities of developing the workshop format for their own disciplines.



Models of how students learn, both generically and in their subject: a closer look

Shân Wareing, Dean of Learning and Teaching Development, University of the Arts London

In order to mount a defence for greater interdisciplinarity in learning and teaching, a better understanding is needed of the drivers towards discipline territories.

The Higher Education Academy makes it a requirement for professional accreditation that lecturers have: 'Models for how students learn, both generically and in their subject'. This paper reports on a small-scale study into academic staff's perceptions of what is unique about learning in their disciplines.

I argue that there are differences which emerge in how students learn in different disciplines, but these are largely based on social, rather than epistemological factors. An analysis of these differences can contributes towards more effective implementation of interdisciplinarity in higher education.

Teaching Politics to Business Students: An Interdisciplinary Experience

Kuo-cheng Huang, Department of International Business, Kainan University

As a scholar of politics, teaching in a business department has been an interesting and stimulating challenge for me. Of course there are some problems to be overcome due to the fact that different disciplines tend to have their preferred ways of learning and teaching. Nevertheless, the feedbacks have been positive and encouraging. In general, my interdisciplinary teaching experience has been an enjoyable and successful one.

Student experience of Interdisciplinarity (Health and Social Care)

Donna Wareham (Senior Lecturer), Lindsay Yardley (LPDU), Stuart Withers (Student), Laura Seager (Student), Louise Wilson (Student), Betty Perry (Student), Shakila Shim (Service User) and Wayne Drake (Service User and Carer, University of Central England

This presentation will offer an insight into work undertaken between UCE, Carers, and Service Users with a learning disability and students within and following a recent QAA and Skills for Health event. The purpose of the follow up UCE local event for Student, Carer and Service User was to ensure that the student experience interdisciplinarity develops and aids in the development of a Health and Social Care Professional able to fully meet the needs of Carers and Service Users.

The presentation will consider the partnership approach taken within this initiative, how inclusivity was ensured and tokenism diminished. The evidence base supporting the involvement of carers, service users and students will be examined and presented. The presentation team will offer personal insights into the learning outcomes achieved and approaches taken to ensure dissemination and development of this initiative across the interprofessional agenda and beyond. Further more the presentation will consider the methods and approaches taken to ensure, accessibility of information, dissemination methods and future plans to all disciplines, service users and carers in a variety of formats to ensure accessibility for all. The lead in this area will be the students who have taken a pivotal role in the approaches taken.

A SWOT analysis of the initial and follow up event will be offered as will the consideration of the means by which students, carers and service users may be recognised and rewarded for work undertaken in this area.

The presentation will be offered by Students, Service Users and Academics

The case for soup and salad; working together and preserving identity in a recipe for interdisciplinary practice.

Chris Connor, Roger Penlington and Jamie Thompson, Northumbria University

(In soup, individual ingredients sacrifice their identity to join in creating something new. Salad preserves ingredients' identity in a dish of complementary and contrasting flavours and textures.)

From a range of experience working across disciplinary boundaries the authors present a case study of efforts to join people from across Northumbria University around themes of sustainability, globalization and internationalising the curriculum.

Initial informal meetings of staff from different departments have led to interesting outcomes. In the process important questions have emerged. Particular institutional structures are identified that have not contributed as positively as might have been expected. Furthermore barriers to progress are identified alongside an emergent vision of an interdisciplinary University. Central to this vision is a debate about the values that underpin the institution and the learning and teaching across and within disciplines.

Issues that are currently part of the wider debate within higher education, such as; employability of graduates, assessment, student support and links between research and teaching, quickly become connected in our reflections about the drivers for interdisciplinary learning in HE.

Finally some underlying questions are explored in the light of experience to date.

  • What is a university without interdisciplinary activity?
  • Can values be sustained in the drive to ever more codified curricula?
  • Do we need new managerial models to sustain interdisciplinary activity?
  • Do we need to reframe our vision of the student experience in HE?

We Can Work It Out: assessing interdisciplinary practice

Paul Kleiman, PALATINE Subject Centre for Dance, Drama and Music

The concepts of interdisciplinarity and collaboration (though by no means uncontested) lay at the heart of the establishment of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) in 1996.  For the first time in UK higher education, all the major performing arts disciplines were brought together in a single institution and, literally, under a single roof.  At the core of LIPA's work there  was one degree course that had six degree  'routes' within it (acting, community arts, dance, design, management and music) and another, closely linked, degree course in music technology. With students from the different courses and disciplines often working together on single, large practical and performance modules,  one of the many pedagogic challenges faced by the institution was the need to create an approach to assessment that allowed students from different disciplines to be assessed fairly and reliably using a single assessment methodology that was applicable to and across all the disciplines involved.

This paper - by a member of the team who created the LIPA curriculum and assessment methodology - explores the concepts (e.g. perceptions of interdisciplinarity), challenges (e.g. the need to develop and share a common 'assessment language')  and concerns (e.g. breadth at the expense of depth) involved in the creation and implementation of a unified and interdisciplinary approach to assessment of practical work across the institution.

Interdisciplinary approaches to design: the multidisciplinary design project

Dr Peter Long, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge and Prof Alexander Slocum, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Multidisciplinary Design Project (MDP) is a CMI-supported collaboration between the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT and the Department of Engineering at University of Cambridge. The goal of the project has been to address the difficulty that engineering teachers have in accessing the lab kit and proper software to support student engagement in hands-on design challenges. Such challenges – driving towards such end products as robots, Formula race cars, or green power generators – are recognised to encourage students in system thinking that cuts across disciplinary boundaries within SET fields. The presentation recounts the history of the collaboration, and will convey how MDP approaches and materials transform the student experience, using video clips, images, and student vignettes. Dr Long may also address the use to date of the MDP resources in a schools setting (through NAGTY) and multiple university settings, leading to further discussion on the impact of interdisciplinary SET approaches on student entry into and retention within SET courses in HE. The presentation can be conducted in a workshop format to allow for more practical discussions of how a range of courses in SET disciplines could employ the approach used in developing MDP, or indeed employ the MDP resources directly.

Interdisciplinarity considered and assessed

David Good, University of Cambridge and Josh Jacobs, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Staff involved in developing and delivering interdisciplinary education at the undergraduate level face substantial challenges with respect to the interplay between different disciplines which will have specific features due to the disciplines involved. Resolving these is undoubtedly an important matter, but there are potentially important generic questions which deserve consideration. Understanding these and the teaching and learning issues which derive from them offers a potential for making interdisciplinary course developments easier in the future.

There are also significant challenges in understanding how to assess interdisciplinarity in a student's abilities and performance as opposed to competence in any of the contributing disciplines. Again there are subject specific and generic questions at hand.

The presence of so many persons with an interest in and experience of interdisciplinarity at the conference offers an important opportunity. Through the course of the meeting, all those present will have had chance to listen to a variety of reports of specific course developments, and presumably a number of reflections on the generic lessons to be derived from each case. This workshop will capitalise on this opportunity to bring the ideas and experience of those at the conference together in a workshop format at the end of the meeting.

It will be facilitated by Dr David Good and Dr Josh Jacobs from the Cambridge MIT Institute who have been working on the development and assessment of a number of CMI funded projects which have had at their core the creation of interdisciplinary curricula.

Engineering Biological Engineering

Keith Johnstone, University of Cambridge

Within the last decade, the development of mathematical and quantitative techniques within molecular biology has enabled the introduction of biology into the engineering curriculum alongside the traditional subjects of physics, chemistry, computer science and mathematics that have historically been its foundational disciplines. In this way, Biological Engineering is distinguished from applications areas of engineering such biomedical engineering which apply a physical sciences based engineering approach to biological and medical problems, and in its own potential for contributing to the solution of non-biological engineering challenges.

For the educator, building the connections between the biological sciences and engineering are substantial. Not only must each disciplinary regime of each be made intelligible to the other, but also the range of material normally used to deliver the biological sciences education must be substantially reduced.

This paper will report on the work done in the context of the Cambridge University Faculties of Biological Sciences and Engineering to create courses which are taken by students from both backgrounds to produce a new specialisation within the General Engineering Course at the 3 rd and 4 th year levels, and to introduce a new form of applications based subject to Biological Science students.

Disciplines in dialogue - managing interdisciplinary degree programmes

Balasubramanyam Chandramohan, University of Wolverhampton

In this paper I would like to discuss Post-colonial Studies, an interdisciplinary joint degree programme that I managed at the University of Luton in 1998. A new module ('Interdisciplinary Studies') was validated to provide coherence to this programme, which was made up of modules drawn mainly from history, literature, linguistics.

The course content emphasised methodological aspects of inter/multidisciplinarity. Assessment was designed to test students' understanding of theoretical issues and also to examine a topic in student's home discipline from an interdisciplinary perspective.

An email list/network moderated by the module leader was used to promote discussion on interdisciplinarity among students. A lunchtime lecture/discussion forum was run to allow the teaching team to interact across subject divisions. Some presentations at the sessions were edited and published in an international online refereed journal

My key argument - based on the above and other case studies -- is that creating structures and space for dialogue across disciplines is crucial for interdisciplinary programmes to succeed in the discipline-oriented ethos that prevails in most universities.

Cross-faculty interdisciplinary work or how to work with 'others'

Susana Lorenzo-Zamorano, University of Manchester

The traditional approach to language programmes curricula development is multidisciplinary. However, students seem to have considerable difficulties in relating their 'language world' to other related areas in the curriculum. Additionally, the approaches to interdisciplinarity made by most departments in HE have been primarily focused on the postgraduate level and, although there is now a history of co-operation among academic staff either working on the same discipline in different Language departments or on disciplines that somehow complement each other, Area Studies has not really succeeded in developing all the potentials that interdisciplinarity may have (Klein, 1990: 25).

The purpose of this session is to familiarize participants with a model of an interdisciplinary and intercultural course unit at undergraduate level run in 2004-2006 at the University of Manchester involving a degree of interdisciplinarity known as composite (Heckhousen, 1972), which denotes the application of multiple disciplines in order to solve societal problems. This credit-rated course unit, incorporating Spanish together with Medicine, Education, Geography and Biological Sciences, is based on a successful funded pilot project initially run in 2003 and it involves pyramidal staff development.

The proposed workshop will consider the main challenges of the course, describe its components with special attention to its WebCT learning environment, and will finally evaluate the insights gained from the language point of view.

Beyond 'service' teaching? Issues in Mathematics and Modern Languages

John Canning, Subject Centre for Languages and Michael Grove, Maths, Stats & OR Network

Teachers of Mathematics and Modern Languages have long supplied other departments with so-called 'service teaching' on units such as 'French for Engineers' and 'Mathematics for Economists'. Are these arrangements simply a service supplied by the Language Centre or mathematics department or are they explicit processes of integrating knowledge of a language with engineering or mathematics with Economics? This paper calls for going beyond ideas of 'service teaching' towards a more integrated understanding of the whole student experience of these courses.

The study of man and past environments: a contribution to ESD

Colin Brooks, Subject Centre for History, Classics and Archaeology

This talk will consider the opportunities and the problems faced by those who wish to introduce programmes, pathways, or modules on Man and Past Environments. What disciplines does a student (and a teacher) need to be able to use or to master in order to grapple with the question of sustainable and unsustainable development in the past?

Workshop sessions


Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

Simon Steiner, Engineering Subject Centre

The Higher Education Academy's project in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) was established in late 2004. In the first year of activity, its Working Group externally commissioned a significant investigative research project into the status of ESD across the majority of discipline areas covered by the Academy's Subject Centres - as well as sponsoring both individual and collaborative projects by several Subject Centres themselves.

The findings of the research project have since been presented to the Academy's major stakeholders (inc. senior managers in HE, employers and the professions), and the work undertaken so far by Subject Centres has been disseminated to their communities and made available across Centres in anticipation of the next phase of activity.

This Workshop will provide attendees with an overview of the findings of the research project into ESD, and opportunity to hear of the work undertaken in ESD by three otherwise disparate Centres (Engineering; Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (GEES); Sociology, Anthropology and Politics (C-SAP)). The Workshop will conclude with a discussion forum that will explore the interdisciplinary nature of the issues in ESD, and the adoption and adaptation of possible approaches from across discipline boundaries that can enable the embedding of sustainable development into the curricula in diverse disciplines.

Finally, there will be opportunity to hear of the pending work being undertaken and being commissioned by the Working Group, including a number of regional and interdisciplinary seminars, their Small Grants Scheme for funded projects, working with StudentForce, and with Forum for the Future.

Interdisciplinarity and undergraduate research

David Good, University of Cambridge and Josh Jacobs, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

At MIT, the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Programme (UROP) is a means by which nearly 90% of all undergraduates work on a member of staff's ongoing research, either on salary or for course credit. Many students conduct research outside their own major course of study, and this work is recognised as being very high value to the staff and to the students' learning.

In the UK, the Cambridge-MIT Institute has sponsored a pilot UROP programme at Cambridge, and has sought to connect the Cambridge effort with similar programmes at Imperial College, Loughborough, and the new Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning focusing on this theme at Warwick and Oxford Brookes. The proposed workshop would be facilitated by Dr David Good and Dr Josh Jacobs of CMI, and would include panellists from the Reinvention Centre CETL at Warwick/Oxford Brookes as well as other UK universities. The Science Foundation Ireland, also engaged in this CMI-sponsored effort, would also be invited to join the panel.

The goal of the workshop will be to draw out the different approaches to advancing undergraduate research now underway at these various institutions, and to address experiences in cross-disciplinary research experiences in the UK and international context. We would like to use a workshop setting to develop strategies for addressing two key challenges. First, what are practical approaches for facilitating student movement across disciplines to conduct research, given the constraints of their course structures and the discipline-focused cultures of UK HEIs? Second, how to promote undergraduate research as a means of integrating students into the life and work of their universities? We hope to identify interdisciplinary approaches to equalising and reconnecting teaching and research as the core missions of academic staff.

Open networking

Heather Witham, Economics Network

Many people complain that conferences do not offer enough time for networking. To remedy this, this session will offer a chance for delegates to meet each other and share ideas in an informal atmosphere, based on the 'World Cafe' method. Tables will be set up in a cafe-style and participants will move to different tables at time intervals to ensure the greatest number of people meet each other. You may wish to bring along some abstracts of your projects to share with others.

Event report: Disciplines in dialogue II

by Alex Ryan

Keep this excellent activity going. They way you organise and run conferences is great!

- Conference attendee

Around 40 participants gathered in Birmingham over two days in July 2006 for a conference arranged under the banner of the Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning Group of the HE Academy. John Canning, who organised the event, warned us that the outcomes would not be predictable - and thankfully, he was right. For better or worse, one can rate events according to the degree of reflection they provoke: those that leave us unmoved often tend to be forgotten and 'filed'. This was quite the opposite: the range of presentations, the various questions and solutions posed, the diversity of participants (in terms of both institutional and disciplinary backgrounds), plus the collegiality of the informal conversation spaces, left me thoroughly provoked, in the best possible sense.

The opening keynote address was provided by Professor Dick Ellis of Birmingham University, whose survey of the terrain served very well to set the scene for our discussions. Historical notes on the development of inter-disciplinarity (from the Vienna Circle to the American Social Science Research Council, Romantic currents and the momentum provided the sociology of knowledge), supported by commentary on professionalisation and institutionalisation processes, plus the 'ambitions' of established disciplines, satisfied the initial need for political contextualisation. Intellectual inquiry was stimulated with his presentation of possible distinctions and interplay between our understandings of 'multi-' and 'inter-' disciplinary endeavours, together with a challenge to identify 'transferable inter-disciplinary methods' that might be applied across the range of academic fields. A sound case was made for the need to acquire grounding in one or more established disciplines, to enable modes of inter-disciplinarity that are less vulnerable to the critique of analytical weakness/softness or 'indiscipline'. Doubts were raised over the implementation of credible inter-disciplinary teaching and learning at UG level, in spite of some encouraging signs of receptivity within the Research Funding Councils. Professor Ellis summarised with notes on the renewed focus on margins, hybrids and interstices within his area of Cultural Studies and a caution against the appropriation of the inter-disciplinary label as a 'cut-price' response to marketisation within HE. He highlighted the role of the established 'inter-disciplines' and concluded with the acknowledgement that at the present time, inter-disciplinarity is an energising mix of structure and adventure.

After this, I attended a stimulating presentation by Shân Wareing (University of the Arts, London) on student learning and socialisation within the disciplines. She presented interesting snippets of data from Economics to Drama to Physics, arguing that epistemological differences are perhaps less forceful than the educational and social influences that encourage students into disciplinary skill sets and attitudes. This was a particularly useful session for triggering thinking on learning models, the maintenance of intellectual misconceptions within disciplinary training, and on gatekeeping via educational backgrounds.

Following lunch, I joined Simon Steiner (Engineering Subject Centre) and Heather Witham (Economics Subject Centre) to provide an overview of some of the work emerging in the HE Academy's "Education for Sustainable Development" Project. The project, which spans the Subject Centre Network, is highly diverse and is intentionally working across the disciplines - initial views and activities relating to the earth and environmental sciences, engineering, socio-political and historical sciences were all represented.

The second keynote speech, by Dr Lori Breslow, provided the close to the first day, and formed an excellent complement to the opening address, since it moved to direct consideration of teaching and learning issues, with reports on two projects based at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. Hearing about Lori's work was fascinating: teaching engineering doctoral students and medical students together, and comparing learning methods across engineering and plant science programmes at MIT and at Cambridge University, UK. Both projects had unearthed interesting findings around student attitudes and perceptions, while generating enticingly inconclusive answers to research questions about the learning interventions themselves. I found the asides equally fascinating; as a communications specialist working in a particular kind of university and scientific climate, Lori's narrative on the research process at MIT prompted further reflection on inter-disciplinarity as it plays out in our professional lives - and these insights underscored the emphasis Lori gave, throughout her presentation, to inter-cultural dimensions of inter-disciplinarity.

On day two, I attended a session led by Paul Kleinman of the PALATINE Subject Centre, reporting on a dialogue/interview based assessment system for inter-disciplinary Performing Arts students. This was a particularly intriguing session for thinking about viable and credible ways to assess and evaluate practical artistry and creative enterprise, a challenge that affects my own inter-disciplinary efforts to analyse martial arts and healing techniques. Paul offered a number of valuable reflections on the nature of collaborative working in multi-discipline teams, and highlighted the sense of 'natural justice' generated by mutual dialogue in this innovative assessment process, which had achieved the compelling result of eliminating student appeals on their grades!

I followed this by listening to Colin Brooks, Director of the HCA Subject Centre (and a colleague in the ESD project), discussing the integration of historical analysis into the study of sustainability and, perhaps more interestingly, examples of unsustainability in the historical record. One would expect the use of a 'telling' illustration from a historian, and he did not disappoint, concluding with a thought-provoking module concept: "The Refrigerator", which would cover pertinent technical matters, waste, energy and consumption issues, plus the behavioural patterns that have arisen around this iconic piece of domestic equipment. As Colin noted, inter-disciplinarity at UG level cannot thrive in the context of badged Joint Honours degrees: in order to be effective, it must be driven by sound intellectual rationale, supported by institutional will and planning.

The final presentation I attended was run by Roger Penlington and Jamie Thompson from University of Northumbria, whose work on inter-disciplinary courses centred on design and engineering. This was, again, a stimulating session, exploring the ethos and business of universities and the relationship of these dimensions to inter-disciplinary endeavours. We benefited from practical group work involving participants in reflection and discussion on inter-disciplinarity in their own professional roles and institutional contexts - and it would be rather interesting to hear the presenters' reflections at a future session, on the diverse range of materials we generated.

The triggers provided and the terrain covered by this event had certainly not been predictable, and the impact was all the richer for it. I departed with my own thinking about disciplinarity and inter-disciplinarity very much refreshed, particularly in terms of the significance of personality, opportunity, role models and teaching relationships. I couldn't have asked for more and am looking forward to the next event in September 2007 in Cambridge.