Many Cultures of Academic Inquiry, Nurturing students' capacity to bridge
The demand is clear. To thrive in contemporary knowledge societies,
young people need not only to develop insights and modes of thinking
that are informed by the sciences and the humanities but also to
integrate these forms of knowledge effectively—be it to develop a personal position about stem cell research, prepare for a career in intellectual property law, or understand global efforts to eradicate poverty. Preparing young people to engage in the major issues of our times requires that we nurture their ability to produce quality interdisciplinary work.
Colleges and universities increasingly offer "interdisciplinary" programs as markers of their capacity to prepare a new generation of thinkers and professionals (Lattuca, Voigt & Fath, 2004). Yet the rapid growth of these programs is accompanied by an often warranted concern about the quality of learning taking place: what constitutes quality work when individual disciplinary standards are inappropriate or inadequate?
The "case" I proposed introduces pedagogical framework to assess students' developing capacity to integrate the sciences and the humanities in order to advance their understandings of particular problems. The framework highlight dimensions of quality in interdisciplinary student work and stems from a multiyear empirical study of assessment practices in recognized undergraduate interdisciplinary programs in the Unites States (e.g. Stanford Human, Swarthmore's Interpretation Theory, University of Pennsylvania's Bioethics). Attached please find two papers outlining and illustrating the framework proposed.
ent of English Language and Literature,
National University of Singapore, Singapore
On careful scrutiny, C. P. Snow's "two cultures" goes beyond the opposition between the "sciences" and the "humanities", revealing itself as mutually incompatible multiple epistemologies or paradigms of academic inquiry. Differences appear in the modes of:
discovery, involving ways of arriving at plausible conjectures/claims, which includes but is not restricted to "methodology" as received practices of gathering data;
justification, involving the "evidence", "argumentation", or "proof" to establish the claim as knowledge; and
critical thinking, involving the value systems and principles for evaluating knowledge claims and their justification.
For instance, norms of justification in mathematical proofs, experimental proofs, philosophical arguments, legal arguments, and literary arguments diverge, despite the shared unity that distinguishes them from theological justification and commonsense justification. "Admissible grounds" also diverge: observations in scientific inquiry, intuitions in philosophical inquiry, semi-subjective responses in aesthetic inquiry, and axioms and definitions in mathematical inquiry. Scientific and legal arguments admit defeasible reasoning; mathematical arguments do not.
Such epistemological differences lead to problems of "cross-cultural" dialogue. In my talk, I will describe a project of comparative academic epistemology that seeks to unearth the unity beneath the diversity of academic epistemologies, and help students acquire the capacity to engage in diverse forms of academic inquiry.