Enhancing (in)formal learning ties in interdisciplinary management courses: a quasi-experimental social network study

Bart Rienties, YingFei Héliot
2016 Studies in Higher Education  
While interdisciplinary courses are regarded as a promising method for students to learn and apply knowledge from other disciplines, there is limited empirical evidence available whether interdisciplinary courses can effectively "create" interdisciplinary students. In this innovative quasi-experimental study amongst 377 Master's students, in the control condition students were randomised by the teacher into groups, while in the experimental condition students were "balanced" by the teacher into
more » ... by the teacher into groups based upon their initial social network. Using Social Network Analysis, learning ties after eleven weeks were significantly predicted by the friendship and learning ties established at the beginning of the course, as well as (same) discipline and group allocation. The effects were generally greater than group divisions, irrespective of the two conditions, but substantially smaller than initial social networks. These results indicate that interdisciplinary learning does not occur "automatically" in an interdisciplinary module. This study contributes to effective learning in interdisciplinary learning environments. In higher education there is a wide acknowledgement that graduates should be able to learn and apply interdisciplinary perspectives, approach problems from multiple vantage points (Borrego and Newswander 2010, Boni, Weingart, and Evenson 2009) , and to synthesise knowledge from different disciplines (Kurland et al. 2010) Higher education is "under growing pressure to provide graduates with opportunities to complement discipline-based competency with multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary skills" (Pharo et al. 2012, 498).
doi:10.1080/03075079.2016.1174986 fatcat:mvlkcni3hzetba736bzhf5sjqq