Structuring an Emergent and Transdisciplinary Online Curriculum: A One Health Case

Structuring an Emergent and Transdisciplinary Online Curriculum: A One Health Case

Shalin Hai-Jew (Kansas State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4462-5.ch014
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Subject domains are in constant transition as new research and analysis reveal fresh insights, and occasionally, there may be paradigm shifts or new conceptual models. Transdisciplinary approaches may be understood as such a shift, with new approaches for conceptualization, analysis, and problem solving via recombinations of domain fields. Such transitory paradigm-shifting moments remove the usual touchpoints on which a curriculum is structured. There are often few or none of the accepted sequential developmental phases with identified concepts and learning outcomes in book chapters, thematic structures, and historical or chronological ordering. An emergent curriculum requires a different instructional design approach than those that have assumed curricular pre-structures. Based on a year-and-a-half One Health course build, this chapter offers some insights on the processes of defining and developing an emergent curriculum.
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In higher education today, it is very hard to find fields that are not influenced by other domains. Very insular fields are rare, and the norm is interdisciplinary learning. It will be important to define some terms early on. Traditionally, a uni-discipline or mono-discipline consists of a domain level evolving in “isolation” without the cross-fertilization of ideas. This domain involves a specific body of knowledge with its own history, a shared identity of a professional community, common terms, contributing researchers, accepted research methods (modes of inquiry), professional values, research and practitioner methods, and contents.

According to Jantsch (1972), a “multidisciplinarity” approach combines juxtaposed learning between disciplines without clear relational ties between them. In this approach, the disciplines retain their unique identities; a multidisciplinary research project is often “the simple sum of its parts” (Wagner, et al., 2011, p. 16). (By contrast, “pluridisciplinary” or “polydisciplinary” refers to the juxtaposition of disciplines seen to be related or somewhat similar, such as clusters of languages or “math” and “physics”.). Multidisciplinarity involves the engagement of several disciplines in sequential or juxtaposed modes.

“Cross-disciplinarity” is typified by “rigid polarization toward specific monodisciplinary concept” with a particular domain emerging in the forefront as contrasted with other domains (Wagner, et al., 2011, p. 16). This approach does not dissolve the boundaries of the respective domains by integrates parts of various domains while allowing one or a few to be dominant.

An “interdisciplinarity” or blended approach is described as having a coordination of disciplines (knowledge and methods) by higher-level concepts that define interrelationships between domains. The interactions between the various disciplines may be at a variety of levels, whether at the level of concepts, methods, terminology, research, or other modes. Such an approach enables the formulation of “a holistic view or common understanding of a complex issue, question, or problem” (Wagner, et al., 2011, p. 16) that lead to more accurate-world understandings for comprehension, analysis, trouble-shooting, research, design, policy-making, and intercommunications and cooperation. Practically, interdisciplinarity is “the combination of different perspectives to tackle a common problem” (Sillitoe, 2004, p. 8).

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