Book Reviews

Book by:  Elizabeth G. Creamer and Lisa R. Lattuca, (Eds). 
Review by: Joyce E. Howland
Mentor/Unit Coordinator, Alfred Unit
Empire State College

Are your research interests in areas where interdisciplinary collaboration is essential to success?  If so, do you worry whether your efforts will garner the credit needed for retention, tenure and promotion?  Is finding a way to meld participants from varying disciplines into a cohesive unit a challenge?  Advancing Faculty Learning Through Interdisciplinary Collaboration suggests ways to improve the functioning of interdisciplinary teams while insuring that participants get the credit they deserve.

This volume grew out of a symposium presented at the 2002 meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education.  Several authors write its 7 chapters. After a general introduction, the second chapter outlines the importance of context to learning as explained by sociocultural learning theory.  Chapters 3, 4 and 5 analyze three instances of interdisciplinary collaboration in the areas of service, research and teaching.  The first, on service, says little about the actual project, but presents the clearest theoretical model for how a group can move from being a collection of individual experts who work together to becoming a fully functioning collaborative team. The next chapter looks at  a research group that, despite almost a decade of collaboration, remains divided by disciplinary perspectives. Still, this team has succeeded in working together and has developed a number of techniques for appropriately sharing both the work and the credit for the team’s publications. The essay on interdisciplinary teaching indicates that collaboration works well when all have a common objective; in less goal-oriented situations, the differing viewpoints cause student confusion and unease. Next,  the case studies are examined from the perspective of sociocultural learning theory.  The volume concludes with suggestions for ways to improve interdisciplinary collaboration while increasing recognition for the faculty involved in these activities.

The volume will be most intelligible to those well versed in the theories of learning and cognition; readers with background in education and/or psychology will be better equipped to understand the theoretical second chapter and the chapter  which discusses the case studies in light of sociocultural learning theory.  However, all readers will find that the case studies provide a number of suggestions for enhancing collaboration among professionals working on a joint project.  While the reader would benefit from a quick review of the case studies, they are not essential background for the final essay, which provides the most useful material in the text.  Presented here are a series of recommendations for how to credit the work of collaborators more clearly so that each participant’s contribution to the interdisciplinary project can be properly recognized  in personnel decisions.  While many of these recommendations have been under discussion for some time, it is helpful to have them all considered in one place. Additional ways to structure and manage projects that enhance the development of collaborative teams are outlined.

Academic advisors from both the professional and faculty ranks will find relevant information presented on recognition of the contributions of various team members and the suggestions for improving the functioning of disciplinary teams. This information may be particularly helpful to those working with groups that include faculty from many different departments or disciplines. 

Advancing Faculty Learning Through Interdisciplinary Collaboration: New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 102. (2005). Book by Elizabeth G. Creamer and Lisa R. Lattuca, (Eds). Review by Joyce Howland. Jossey-Bass. 112 pp., $29.00 (paperback). ISBN # 0-7879-8070-6.

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