Teaching in the curriculum disciplines: Interdisciplinarity and the ‘dual mandate’ of creativity and constraint

Year: 2019

Author: Edwards-Groves, Christine, Jones, Pauline, Matruglio, Erika, Georgiou, Helen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Creativity and critiqueare general capabilities considered to be key drivers of educational excellence and essential for innovation, economic growth and social opportunity in Australia. However, the interdisciplinary nature of these capabilities or how they might co-exist with and within distinct disciplinary practices as they relate to school education is not well understood. Indeed, disciplinarity and creativity are often seen as antithetical: to some, interdisciplinarity is synonymous with creativity and freedom, disciplinarity with tradition, constraint, and regulation (Fuller 2003; Frodeman, Klein & Mitcham 2017); others have pointed out that disciplines have ‘a dual mandate, carrying a sense of practical regime into an economy of conceptual enterprise’ (Anderson & Valente 2002, p.4). To understand creativity and critiquein different curricula, the project presented in this paper interrogates three distinctly different disciplines - physics, literature and history. Selection of these fields was based on the considerable variation in knowledgeand textual practices (Goldman et al 2016), and attention to creativity, critical thinking and inquiry practices as identified in broad scientific and social sciences fields (Macdonald 2010). In addition, physics, literature and history have recognisable trajectories in Science, English and History syllabuses from the middle primary years to upper secondary years.

The paper presents preliminary findings from qualitative research exploring the relationship between creativity and critique,and disciplinary constraint in Science, English and History. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to gain insights into how ‘insiders’ of disciplinary practices make sense of their respective fields (Brenner 2006). Project participants were selected due to their acknowledged expertise in tertiary scholarship, and teaching the relevant discipline or subject area; and were identified through professional associations and research team members’ networks. Three expert educators from each discipline area (physics, poetry, and history) and from different educational sites (primary, secondary and tertiary) were interviewed (n=27).By consulting with physicists, poets and historians (in tertiary settings) along with expert teachers from school settings, theproject explores participant accounts of what it means to engage in creative and critical thinking in the disciplines of science (physics), English (literature and poetry) and history. Thematic analysis provides insights into convergences and divergences concerning disciplinary knowledge, practices and dispositions; the nature of creativity and critique; the pedagogic practices assumed by experts and their respective views about pathways for learners’ development. It is concluded that to improve how creativity and critique are understood and practised across educational settings, accounts from expert insiders must be prioritised if innovation is to prevail.