- learn about the conceptual framework Hodges' model. A tool that can help integrate HEALTH and SOCIAL CARE, INFORMATICS and EDUCATION. The model is situated, facilitates person-centredness, integrated - holistic care and reflective practice. A new site using Drupal is an ongoing aim - the creation of a reflective workbench. Email: h2cmng @ yahoo.co.uk Welcome

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Musings... the elusive transdisciplinary particle(s!)

At any moment there are concepts and phrases that creep into the everyday and academic vernacular, even when their precise meaning is not clearly defined or understood. Such terms may be used interchangeably, as if one means the same as another. Two examples are multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, followed by intradisciplinary (perhaps not as common) and transdisciplinary. We are already familiar with multidisciplinary; in the form of the team and the record, but what of these other terms?

These musings are not an attempt to define them (the above title would differ). Reading 'transdisciplinary' et al. it may seem like they should be restricted to the keyword list of an academic paper; or found in the very title of a journal as can be readily found. My fascination lies in them all, but for me it's Transdisciplinarity that invites the high-five.

I came across what sounds a marvellous course of study in Zurich - the Master of Arts in Transdisciplinary Studies. Zurich is not alone in offering such programmes. Reading their course introduction on the above link you will see the instant appeal as a champion for #h2cm.

These terms are of relevance here – due to another: complexity. In truth every age has its complexities. In this age and here on W2tQ the complexity stands out as we mix health, education and information technology. It is often suggested that the World's problems are such that they demand transdisciplinary solutions. Success in assuring a sustainable food supply, climate change, energy production, and our general well-being ... depends on the researchers in one field being aware of, testing and utilising ideas, materials, methods and methodologies from what are usually totally disparate disciplines – fields of enquiry. Making these connections calls for opportunities to take time out, network, engage in (variously mediated) dialogue, and funding to fuel insight, innovation and creativity. (Sometimes, disciplines need their heads banging together). Although seemingly denoting a broad scope, the term is often used in specific problematic areas of research including sustainability, transport, energy, waste management. ...

In health and social care Hodges' model figures here because in effect the model declares that it wants its cake and will eat it. By this I mean that to the model the disciplines are distinct and need to be treated as such; but also that the disciplines with their history, epistemological qualities, theories and practices, and respective research agendas need to step outside their box. They need to traverse the conceptual space represented within the model – and be prepared to travel back and forth outside the comfort zone.

In struggling to resolve the 'transdisciplinary' perhaps there are devices up to the task and fit for purpose; that is if we care to look, feel, smell, taste and listen hard enough?

Can we find evidence for this trend towards transdisciplinarity?

What about evidence in the movement and advocates for interprofessional education? Some disciplines are churlish, reluctant bed-fellows, eschewing the opportunities offered. Others embrace interprofessional learning. As per the Web they readily, even if unconsciously, adopt the mash-up mentality and attitude. They may preserve their status and integrity with a hybrid approach; keeping discipline centred training (essential for continuing professional development) but also taking advantage of what interprofessonal education and training might offer. As health services standardise on assessment and outcome measures then this approach, this trend toward the transdisciplinary seems common sense in terms of efficiency.

If in a health context you feel that transdisciplinary is a step too far, then please recall* those recurring health conundrums that constantly exercise theory, practice and management. You know the line-up:
  • multidisciplinary care
  • health care records
  • person-centered care
  • health care vs. education...
Solutions that are not derived on a transdisciplinary basis may well work; but not as well as they might. It may be that appeal to the transdisciplinary is merely blue sky thinking. It has its place on the leading edge of scientific and technical innovation but not here. Given the challenges outlined previously it appears health and the idealism of staff need an injection of idealism. Could it be that transdisciplinary approaches can form the basis for a new idealism? To complete this interprofessional educational point, perhaps this means of educational engagement can potentiate future transdisciplinary initiatives? Not directly on the level of ward, community team, clinic but tackling those so called bigger picture themes like health education, health promotion, service access.

A further give-away trail that might provide evidence of the elusive transdisciplinary particle is the curriculum? While some institutions may find their compromise (because this is a problem) informatics is struggling to retain or even find a place on the nursing curriculum. The curriculum is full. It is packed. If nothing else this highlights the complexity alluded to earlier. Like the increased embedded functionality our electronic devices provide both within the circuit boards and when in our hands, clinical informatics needs to be embedded in the respective curricula. What does this say of education, of the curriculum? Perhaps the reason why transdisciplinarity seems ephemeral and quixotic is that our transdisciplinary efforts are tantamount to a collective (group) mindfulness. First steps and collisions are never easy. ...

Additional links:

International Journal of Transdisciplinary Research
Transdiscipline - TheATLAS & Journal
Journal of Transdisciplinary Federation of Science and Technology

Image source - with thanks: Drakenstein Palliative Hospice

* The above musings and the others on #W2tQ are from a longer text in draft. PJ

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