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Chapter 3 Interdisciplinary leadership and learning

Interdisciplinary Higher Education: Perspectives and Practicalities

ISBN: 978-0-85724-371-3, eISBN: 978-0-85724-372-0

Publication date: 8 November 2010


An investigation into the leadership behaviours of academic staff undertaking interdisciplinary research and teaching drew on interviews with 10 senior members of staff at two research institutions, in the United Kingdom and Australia, in order to illuminate the nature of interdisciplinary leadership. Key terms are defined: disciplinarity, interdisciplinarity, identity, leadership and learning. A model is developed, based on an analysis of the interview data, drawing on Adair's three-part model of leadership, modified for the context. It is proposed that interdisciplinary leadership can be understood as being at the intersection of identity, discipline and learning, and requiring an understanding of all three for effective practice. The model also includes areas of activity: need and opportunity, co-ordination and direction, communication and motivation. The implications for the support of academic staff in such roles are considered. It is suggested that there is value in conceptualising interdisciplinary leadership as the leading of learning.


Blackmore, P. and Kandiko, C. (2010), "Chapter 3 Interdisciplinary leadership and learning", Davies, M., Devlin, M. and Tight, M. (Ed.) Interdisciplinary Higher Education: Perspectives and Practicalities (International Perspectives on Higher Education Research, Vol. 5), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 55-74.



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