Innovating Interdisciplinarity in Higher Education: Exploring the Impact of a Grassroots Community of Practice




interdisciplinarity, communities of practice, teacher development


Skills in interdisciplinary collaboration are required to address many complex problems facing society. As such, interdisciplinarity is a critical competency for students to develop. However, teachers’ effectiveness in teaching interdisciplinarity is often hindered by silo structures within university faculties. To address this in the Experts in Teamwork (EiT) programme, a MSc in a Norwegian university that develops students’ interdisciplinary teamwork skills through projects that address real-world challenges, a community of practice (CoP) evolved among teachers from different EiT classes. Over 20 months, CoP members participated in digital and in-person discussions, lecture exchanges, student and professional conferences, and co-evaluation of student work, with an aim of better understanding interdisciplinarity and approaches for teaching it to students. The success of the CoP in achieving these aims was evaluated through a series of focus groups consisting of members of the CoP. The CoP achieved some success in fostering pedagogical conversations that were transformative for participants’ understanding of interdisciplinarity in their practice. Participants reported that CoP participation influenced their interactions with students, ultimately helping students to develop a better understanding of interdisciplinarity. However, participants reported limitations in the CoP as a professional development resource, citing its newness and the required time commitment. Participants felt that these issues could be addressed via greater institutional support.

Read the corresponding ISSOTL blog post here.


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Author Biographies

Maria Azucena Gutierrez Gonzalez, Trondheim Municipality

María Azucena Gutiérrez González (NOR) is project leader for “University City TRD3.0,” a collaborative project between NTNU and Trondheim Municipality. Her work focuses on facilitating and leading the co-creation and implementation of interdisciplinary projects.

Caitlin Mandeville, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Caitlin Mandeville (NOR) is a postdoctoral researcher at the Gjærevoll Centre for Biodiversity Foresight Analyses, Department of Natural History, NTNU, whose work focuses on participatory science and biodiversity conservation.

Ferne Edwards, University of Surrey, UK

Ferne Edwards (GBR) is a research fellow working on the EU FoodCLIC project at the University of Surrey. Her work focuses on just and sustainable cities, food systems, and social change.

Paula Rice, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Paula Rice (NOR) is an associate professor at the faculty of Economics and Management, NTNU. Her background is in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). Her current work is focused on the assurance of learning in higher education.


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How to Cite

Gutierrez Gonzalez, Maria Azucena, Caitlin Mandeville, Ferne Edwards, and Paula Rice. 2024. “Innovating Interdisciplinarity in Higher Education: Exploring the Impact of a Grassroots Community of Practice”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 12 (April):1–17.