As I was reading through program material for the Transformational Studies Program, the concept of transdisciplinarity was a fresh term to me. In social work and K-12 education, the concept of interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary is frequently used. Especially related as a genre for meetings. When I participate in an Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting, they are multidisciplinary team meetings that include an administrator, the special education teacher, a general education teacher, the school psychologist, the parent, sometimes the student, myself as a social worker, and other potential professionals. One of the benefits of these types of meetings is each of the participants has a different viewpoint and area of understanding around the topic. Bronstein and Abramson (2017) describe ten competencies for effective interdisciplinary teamwork. These competencies revolve around the group structures and format that allow groups to work productively together by having shared values, clear roles and processes.
In the professional roles that I fill, I frequently participate in various types of these interdisciplinary team meetings. Whether it is the community coalition that I volunteer with who is focused on doing prevention work to reduce substance abuse among teens or participating in clinical staff meetings that include psychiatrists, nurses, therapists these skills and the best practices for these types of teams is vital to my work.
Montuori (2010) describes how transdisciplinarity is separate from multidisciplinarity or interdisciplinarity. that it is a different “way of thinking, organizing knowledge and informing action that can assist them in coming to grips with the complexity of the world” (p. 123). The Coalition could probably be best described as interdisciplinary. The entire group is following best practices for creating community change through a prevention science framework. Each of the members represents sectors (e.g., government, school, business, mental health, substance abuse, etc.). Transdisciplinary would not be looking to replace or each of the bases of knowledge that each of these sectors has. It would seek to enrich them through insights.
It seems to be able to accomplish these types of insights, there is a need to be able to see the world from a more ecological perspective. To be able to understand the parts, but also to understand the whole. To both be able to both complement and integrate disciplinary knowledge and to integrate the inquirer into the inquiry and generate new knowledge (Montuori, 2010).
Bronstein, L. R., & Abramson, J. S. (2017). Group process dynamics and skills in interdisciplinary teamwork. In C. D. Garvin, L. M. Gutierrez, & M. J. Galinsky (Eds.) Handbook of social work with groups (2nd ed.). New York: The Guilford Press.
Montuori, A. (2010). Transdisciplinarity and Creative Inquiry in Transformative Education: Researching the Research Degree. In M. Maldonato & R. Pietrobon (Eds.), Research on scientific research: A transdisciplinary study (pp. 110-135). Portland: Sussex Academic Press.
This essay was used as a discussion piece for TSD 8005 - Introduction to Transformative Studies.