I….Once Had a Group…or Should I Say, It Once Had Me: A Harvard Final Paper

Meaning Making in Interdisciplinary Teacher Teams:
A Constructive-Developmental View

Scott Hannon
T006: Adult Development
Professor Bob Kegan
Harvard Graduate School of Education
May 5, 2011

“I…once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.”
~The Beatles
“I…once had a group, or should I say, it once had me.”

I’ve always been fascinated by groups. When I was five, my parents chose to divorce, and while I remember some loneliness associated with going for long stretches without seeing my dad, when I put my head on my pillow at night my mind tended to ponder how the ‘whole’ of my family was made up smaller, individual ‘parts’. Everything in life seemed to be made up of smaller parts. And I wanted to be one of the people who put the parts together. I remember how much my sister and I fell in love with The Parent Trap, a film that features two identical girl twins, who trick their parents into re-marrying. While my sister and I were not successful in that venture, a curiosity about the intertwining relationship between the individual and the group continued throughout my life.

This curiosity contributed to my being a member of various communities, choosing teaching and counseling as a career, and studying the psychology of groups. I taught almost every subject at the high school level and even some subjects at the college level. I was a school counselor, head of a Social Studies department, and a director of a school. I studied emotional intelligence, conflict resolution and transformative education. After a 20-year career in education, I discovered that I’d accidentally become quite knowledgeable about how all the subjects interconnect; I’d become an inter-disciplinarian.
A few years ago, I was accepted into a doctorate program in Interdisciplinary Studies at Columbia Teachers College, where I specialized in interdisciplinary teacher teams and eventually led professional development groups for teachers. I’m stimulated by the way a group of people from differing backgrounds and disciplines can come together to become a “better whole”, and perhaps help improve kids’ lives. I never did get my parents to re-marry; I never did put those pieces together. But in the process I’ve become a different kind of minister—a minister in “marrying” diverse groups of teachers.

A key element of the curriculum reform movement is understanding that existing disciplinary divisions contribute to the fragmentation of the school day for students and teachers alike. This understanding led to the growth of improved interdisciplinary curricula, a movement that by some estimates has affected nearly two-thirds of American schools (Grossman et. al., 2000). Experts on the challenges and problems of our world remind us that solutions are best solved not from a single disciplinary perspective but from many perspectives. For the sake of improving education, experts of different disciplines must learn to work better together. In an increasingly diverse and complex world, the need to work effectively in groups and to share knowledge between groups is greater than ever. Collaborative work often produces more stunning results than any one individual could create on his or her own, and yet so many high schools, colleges, and universities have many extraordinarily gifted people operating in relative isolation from each other (Kegan, 2000).

Soon after being accepted into the Interdisciplinary Studies doctoral program at Columbia Teachers College, I started facilitating workshops to help teachers develop highly integrated interdisciplinary curricula, while at the same time fostering a sense of collaborative teamwork, partnership, and community. I met with a high degree of success in most schools. But one group of teachers stood out to me and led to an experience that forever altered the way I viewed interdisciplinary groups. I learned from interdisciplinary work more than I ever expected about the complexity of the human mind and the impact that complexity has on interdisciplinary collaboration itself.

One of the keys to my insights was aided by the powerful theory of Constructive-Developmentalism. Constructivism is a powerful perspective relevant to many different disciplines, including Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy, Literary Criticism, Anthropology, and Theology. Central to the constructivist perspective is the concept that our minds assimilate enormous amounts of data and function as meaning-making machines. While it might be a stretch of the imagination, interdisciplinary teams of teachers function in much the same way: the purpose of most interdisciplinary groups is to draw from many different disciplines and construct new and useful curricular meaning and knowledge. In this sense, interdisciplinary groups serve as a kind of a “curricular mind” for the entire school.

The question or summary statement that drives this paper is:

How does the dialogue (data) within interdisciplinary teacher working groups (context), when viewed through the lens of constructive-developmental theory, help to illuminate the way teachers make meaning out of interdisciplinary curriculum, and what are the implications for understanding an interdisciplinary groups collective way of knowing?
Note of Clarification:
I’m aware of the difference between looking for structural coherence in an individual’s order of mind by analyzing therapy or a speech and doing so through the lens of data gathered from discussion within an interdisciplinary teaching team. However, given the increasing importance placed on interdisciplinary methodologies and how these groups tend to discuss both their career contexts and the familial patterns that contribute to their meaning making, I think it’s ripe for analysis. I’m aware that many complex variables are at play, such as an individual’s relationship with her discipline, her inclination to be more extroverted or introverted, and the unique way a group influences her way of interacting.

Megan the Math Teacher: A 3rd-Order Perspective of Disciplinary Teams: Multi-DisciplinaryMegan was a recently-trained Math teacher who was rushed through a fellowship program designed to fill the need for Math teachers in the public schools. She taught in the day and attended Masters classes in the afternoon and early evening. Megan reacted frequently to comments made in the group with laughs and sarcastic rolls of her eyes, with comments like “I don’t know about this group. I don’t always want to be here, but I guess that’s what the director wants.” She frequently complained about the time this group took away from her graduate school responsibilities. Her experience of the demands made on her by the school paralleled the way she thought about the demands made on their high school students. Her comment, “I guess my dad was a Math geek so I’m next in line”, implied she was to some degree socialized into her discipline, subject to the loyalties and traditions in her family. Her comment, “I think Math gets lost in the interdisciplinary groups,” reminded me of an explanation in class of the beaker and water-level analysis with little Stephen. Throughout the semester, Megan almost always deferred to others when creating interdisciplinary curriculum, suggesting around the 3rd-order structuring associated with a lack of self-authoring, and dependency on others.

Demonstrating a metaphor used in Kegan’s lecture on Adult Development, Megan showed a capacity to drive the “automatic car” of her own discipline, but in the context of cross-disciplinary planning, her “driving a stick-shift” skill-set was limited. Megan’s ability to work abstractly was limited. In a discussion about an interdisciplinary unit on environmental destruction, Megan proposed the idea of holding a mock rainforest convention with the mission of reducing environmental destruction and global warming. For the Math component of this curriculum, she suggested the kids play the role of a “Math specialist”, who offers data on the size and rate of destruction. On one hand, her suggestion was a valid contribution; however, it was a relatively linear, limited suggestion for this interdisciplinary team. Taken in conjunction with her quote, “Let’s get some Math in this convention—the kids need all they can get in this competitive world,” the other teachers felt that Megan had a limited perspective of the potential for this interdisciplinary unit. Specifically, the group rejected this idea because they “felt the disciplines should be blended together more rather than representatives of each subject reporting”. The way Megan thought about curriculum structure for this group demonstrated something closer to a “multi-disciplinary” perspective, which holds disciplines like separate food choices at a buffet rather than an inter-disciplinary blending together of food items. Multi-disciplinary perspectives usually lack a cross-categorical or cross-disciplinary element. And, since the multi-disciplinary perspective does not encourage much comparing and contrasting of disciplines, the value structures associated with other disciplines tend to remain static. In such groups that frame themselves around multi-disciplinary models, disciplines different from a teacher’s specialty tend to stay “subject” to him or her. In this sense, multi-disciplinary groups operate in a kind of third order of mind. Megan’s multi-disciplinary curriculum approach was oriented—whether she was aware of it or not—toward students gaining more information, and her priority was more about students gaining in-formation than trans-formation.

One of the more creative questions I asked the group was to visually illustrate their perspective of the nature and purpose of our interdisciplinary group. Megan drew many circles, which themselves made up a circle; the center of her drawing (perhaps loosely analogous to “epistomological center of gravity) of her drawing did not land in any of the circles themselves. Other teachers drew overlapping Venn diagrams, implying that the teachers were there to discover and share in the meaning making of overlapping themes in their disciplines.

Megan expressed anxiety during some planning meetings. In private discussions, she shared that she feared being perceived as “less intelligent” than the other teachers and that she feared saying something wrong. She frequently deferred to the older and more experienced members of her team, especially her Math department head. Because I did not know of its existence at the time, I did not walk Megan or any of the teachers through the Immunity to Change process (Kegan, 2009). However, I could imagine, from what I observed with Megan, that one of her hidden commitments would be to “not be seen as wrong or unintelligent by others,” and that one of her big assumptions would be “if I say something wrong I will be seen as less valuable in the group.” Megan seemed torn and conflicted when other teachers disagreed with her. While there were tensions in the group relating to whose ideas ultimately would get accepted, the tension of the group seemed to incapacitate her, while other teachers were more at ease with the tension. Megan seemed to bounce back and forth between “Part of me does not care about this group” and “I should care more, should think more, be more a part of this team”. There was a sense in which, to use one of Kegan’s metaphors, Megan seemed to have “one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake” (Kegan, lecture), implying a third-order way of making meaning in the group. Object to Megan was her personal need and preference; she was shaped by what she perceived to be the expectation of the group. The collective consciousness of the group appeared to be subject to her.

Another highly revealing moment was when the group was fairly deeply engaged in an interdisciplinary discussion oriented around identifying broad process themes that were relevant to many different disciplines. We were exploring the process theme “vicious cycle”. In History, a vicious cycle might envelop two parties in a conflict, whereupon the parties threaten and escalate aggression. In Science, the vicious cycle might be used to model the way cancerous cells grow out of control. It was challenging for Megan to be imaginative with her Mathematics contribution. In constructive-developmental theory terms, she struggled with understanding and working with the “edges of her own disciplinary meaning-making”. In fact, Megan was visibly agitated at times. While she momentarily suggested “like the spiral of water as it goes down the drain?”, she hesitated to engage more fully or to bring enthusiasm about her idea to the group. Megan’s focus was on demonstrating what she knew solidly and disguising the nature of what she did not know.

I imagine how this group might approach an interdisciplinary unit by deploying the image used in a lecture in Kegan’s Adult Development lectures: a cylinder with a metal ball in the middle. Given the diagnosis so far of Megan’s approach to inter-disciplinary planning and her preference for the literal over the abstract, Megan might make links through Literature, via a story about how a cylinder is found by a character, or how a cylindrical shape might be used in the context of a telescope as part of an “Age of Exploration” unit in a Social Studies class. Such a literal approach would be more object to Megan, whereas using a more abstract, metaphorical interpretation of the cylinder, as referred to in lecture, would most likely be more subject to her. The degree to which she was able to stretch her mind without being overwhelmed by anxiety might suggest how far along the 3-to-4 continuum she was with respect to the complexity of her interdisciplinary thinking. Megan often understood what a higher-order teacher was saying, but she did not seem to fully get where this teacher was saying it from, in terms of his or her meaning structure.

Many interdisciplinary projects and units are assessed by teachers. When assessment possibilities arose in conversation, Megan suggested more narrow assessments, which other teachers felt were “like standardized tests”. Most of the teachers of this group viewed standardized tests as having a very limited capacity to accurately measure student progress and saw the “standardized test mindset” as being even less appropriate for measuring student progress within the context of interdisciplinary units. The reason they gave: the boundaries of the disciplines are blurred and demand more creative forms of assessment.

Chris the Literature Teacher: A 4th-Order Perspective on Disciplinary Teams: InterdisciplinaryChris was a Literature teacher for many years before our group began. He firmly grasped the concept behind interdisciplinary methodology, having both a detailed understanding of his subject and a strong sense for how it overlapped with other subjects. I learned in the preliminary meetings that he came to teaching Literature/Language Arts out of an authentic love of the discipline. He had not been subject to the socialized desires and pressures of family members or others in his surroundings as he progressed through his career. He did not see working across disciplinary lines as “taking away anything from his discipline”. He was at ease with “changing conversational gears” within the group. Chris was self-authoring in his approach to working with the group. He demonstrated a capacity for complex meaning-making with respect to overlapping interdisciplinary themes and was key in constructing and playing an authoring role with the interdisciplinary curriculum. In moments when other teachers deferred to the authority of the heads of their departments, Chris’s relationship with his department head and his speaking patterns suggested an equal status. He would say things to his department head like, “Let’s think this through together.”
When asked what he thought was the goal of interdisciplinary curriculum planning, he said “to tease out themes broadly connected to many disciplines so that teachers can explore with kids the way they approach many subjects.” His use of the word “way” implied a method of framing interdisciplinary thinking that demonstrated Chris’s understanding that knowledge is constructed and that how students know a body of knowledge is as important, or more important, than what they know. Chris also said “…in finding overlapping themes between subjects, kids will have a broader look, which is necessary in this flat world…they can link arms together and not be so overwhelmed…”, which highlights his understanding of the connection between student work and the real world. His use of the term “flat world” probably is a reference to Thomas Friedman’s book The World is Flat (even if Chris was not aware that the popular use of the term links to Friedman) and is analogous to Kegan’s use of the term “modern world” in the context of a 4th-order, modern world mindset.

When asked about how they visually conceptualized the group, Chris drew a Venn diagram, with the intersection being the central overlap of all the disciplines, implying his fundamental emphasis on inter-connection and the inter-disciplinary. His use of the words “yes” and “no” were fluidly interchangeable, depending on the circumstances. He once said “we are not doing this [interdisciplinary planning] in a linear fashion,” which suggested his awareness of interdisciplinary work occurring in a more complex and dynamic context. This way of seeing the group was also evident in how he settled disputes; he had numerous differences of opinion with group members, but the conflicts themselves did not “have him”. He was able to quickly and smoothly transition from being mildly aggravated to focusing in on how to synthesize his viewpoints with the broader interdisciplinary tapestry of the group. For example, he once said “…I’m frustrated, what I want to say is…I want you to see that we can use this portion of it (a quote) in the lesson…” Here, his frustration was more connected to his own struggle to communicate his sense of passion about a complex concept as opposed to the flavor of frustration that arises when someone is irritated by the style or tone of voice of a fellow teacher. Chris held, or “had his thumb around” the tension in the group: the group did not hold him or have him “thumbed down”.

At times, Chris mentioned the director’s and district’s wishes for teachers to participate in this professional development, but was not made up by these wishes. He was able to self-author his own view, which incorporated both: “They probably see that we can get more creative and curious about interconnections of our subjects…we will be better teachers for it”. He neither resisted nor overly submitted to the view or mood of the director, or even the other teachers; rather, he was “in relationship” with the mood of the group. His 4th-order-ness also revealed itself when he said, to the chuckle of the group, “…it’s not like we have to all agree or love each other”, which implied that ultimately he was the one choosing his relationship to the group, as opposed to his relationship “choosing him”.

When asked to identify interdisciplinary themes, Chris’s suggestions were: “Truth, Honesty, Courage, Loyalty, Freedom, and Wisdom”. When I had the thought experiment of Chris being presented with Kegan’s geometric image of a cylinder (lecture) as a potential theme, I imagined Chris suggesting the terms “Balance” or “Equality”, or similar abstract nouns that appropriately correspond to the cylinder image. These abstract nouns routinely appear in, and are frequently considered part of, the Literature and Language Arts curriculum. While Chris had a bias toward themes which appear more commonly in Literature and Language Arts, these terms are curricularly correlated with other disciplines like Social Studies, and so have “high interdisciplinary potential”. However, it is not so easy to relate these themes to the Science and Mathematics curricula. Kegan writes that the 4th order “coheres by its alignment with its own belief structure/ideology/personal code…” (Kegan, 1994). When I replace “structure” and “ideology” with “discipline”, my conclusion is that Chris has a more 4th-order orientation with respect to the way he makes meaning of interdisciplinary themes. Kegan (1994) calls a more 5th-order mindset “…attempting to reintegrate systems according to a new, larger principle which includes evaluating the various ideological components and reconstructing them in a new, more complex way.” From that standpoint, 5th-order thinking about disciplinary themes are broad or “large-principled” enough to include the subjects of Science and Math. Examples of such interdisciplinary themes are process themes (change, cycles, oscillation, reframing). Broad-process themes allow space for a wider range of subject areas since they are themes which emerge in almost every area of life. A 5th-order teacher would probably favor these themes and probably have the complexity of mind to “hold” them. A 5th-order teacher would have the facility to help students apply these process themes to their lives within an interdisciplinary unit. Chris said, “It’s not about the words themselves…it’s not about the stuff…I know that.” In his 4th-order-ness, he recognized that interdisciplinary methodologies are not so much about in-formation. But Chris did not take his sentence further. He did not know where to go from there. Everything beyond that seemed subject to him. He fell short of being able to elucidate the potential in these process themes for trans-formation, for which process themes like “re-frame” are ideally suited.

When the subject of assessment came up, Chris considered possibilities that Megan could not. He said “we need a wider range of assessments to reflect the wider range of ways we have of thinking about the crossover of different disciplines.” This comment hovered in the range of 4th-order complexity, in that it embodied a seat of judgment and a sense of personal authority. The fact that he hinted at broader systems may even suggest a movement past 4th order, but since he did not bring into question the notion of assessment at all, a valid perspective according to some educational philosophies, he fell short of structuring his interdisciplinary meaning-making from the 5th order.

Chris, in his 4th-order way of structuring, fully embraced the context of “your discipline and mine”. But I wonder how he would respond to the possibility that “your discipline is mine,” a perspective more commonly held by a teacher like Laurie the Psychology teacher.

Laurie the Psychology Teacher: A 4/5th Order Perspective on Disciplinary Teams: Trans-DisciplinaryLaurie was a veteran teacher in her 50s who used to teach Social Studies (History, Civics, Global Studies, and Diversity Studies) and now teaches an AP Psychology class mainly for high school seniors. Laurie regularly and successfully authored curriculum from her own discipline and co-authored some of the interdisciplinary curriculum in the group. While she had the capacity to focus on the specific content of her discipline, her way of being when she taught resonated more closely with questions related to how kids know what they know. Laurie felt more like my partner in providing interdisciplinary professional development. When asked to visually represent the “epistemological center of gravity” of the group, she gently cautioned about the conceptual limitations of any two-dimensional drawing, making reference to 3-dimensional metaphors and even complex, multi-dimensional fractals: “The visual I have in mind transcends the notion of subjects while still including them, kind of a Ken Wilbur idea.” One of the most intriguing aspects of Laurie’s way of being with other teachers was that, while she used the words “yes” and “no” from time to time, her language patterns, for the most part, transcended the duality of yes and no. She often responded with the acknowledging sound of “Mmmmmmm”. She intuitively sensed that the words “yes” and “no” were embedded in the context of the binary and the polar. According to Kegan (1994), “The fifth order self coheres through its ability to distinguish internal consistency from wholeness or completeness; its alignment is with the dialectic rather than either pole.” Laurie frequently asked questions of the other teachers, such as “how so?” These and other questions by Laurie served as the foundation of subject-object interviews used to diagnose the structural coherence in the interviewee’s way of knowing. Laurie encouraged the group to celebrate their differences, one of the characteristics identified by Kegan as a feature of post-4th-order structuring.

One of Laurie’s more extraordinary quotes was:
We have an opportunity to transcend the very notion of separate disciplines so that our kids have the chance to gain access to something deeper about the very nature of life…our kids’ lives do not happen to them in disciplinary silos…let’s open up a space or clearing for them, rather than continually expecting them to manufacture answers.

Laurie saw similarity where most perceived difference. When asked about the purpose of our group, she said that it was “an opportunity for a growth process would allow teachers to gain insight into their students lives.” Her language expanded our view of the purpose of our meetings. Any teacher, no matter their order of mind, could “find” themselves in that purpose. When tensions arose in the group, she did not react to them or feel torn by them. She did not even seem to need to “hold the tension” in a 4th-order way. Rather, she smiled and said that she “instinctually trusted that something larger than us all would hold it”.

She shared her view of assessment: “It is important to me that we co-create the assessment with the students so that it is a learning activity we share together.” She was more interested in inquiring as a group into what it means to have assessment in an interdisciplinary context than to actually act on assessing the students.

Laurie embraced broad interdisciplinary process themes like oscillation, cycle, and frame/reframe. Then one day, she said something that I think went over the heads of many in the group:
At some point the themes drop away altogether and it becomes about facilitating a process of students grappling with their experience of how they make assertions and conclusions. Here we are questioning the very way we talk in class about disciplines…

Laurie transcended the notion of trying to make something out of the group or to “get somewhere” with the group. She did not feel an impulse to get somewhere, and felt comfortable playing at the edges of her craft like Andrew Goldworthy in the extraordinary film Rivers and Tides. Like the playful creativity of Goldworthy, Laurie acknowledged the limitations of disciplines. But she even challenged the inter-disciplinary theme of our professional development group. Laurie was able to think from the context of there actually being no separate disciplines at all. Rather than a pre-3rd-order “your discipline or my discipline” or a 4th-order “your discipline and my discipline” she embraced a more 5th-order tendency to find similarities across different systems: “Your discipline is my discipline”. She stood for transforming our very notion of disciplines; she stood for a “trans-disciplinary” context.

Laurie loved visual metaphors and would have been excited by the idea of using the cylinder as an access to a trans-disciplinary lesson with students. I saw her demonstrate her understanding of abstract metaphors. She would understand that the notion of the “opening” of the cylinder arises out of the act of speech, and that we, with our ability to construct meaning, are the ones who call into being or create these opening to be openings. As with the three umpires described in Kegan’s lecture, “those openings ain’t nothin’ till we calls ’em”.

Laurie felt that a truly trans-disciplinary curriculum would focus on the “verb” of human being rather than the “noun” of human being:
I want to get right up close and look at the ‘being of human being’ with kids, creating a quality of learning that is not so much conceptual as experiential. I want to help create a clearing for the students to discover and create themselves in the moment, to create their own ‘curriculum of the moment’ for themselves. I want their sense of a class or group to, in a sense, fall away in exchange for pure learning moments.

I chuckled as I imagined an odd variation on a Beatles song: “I…once had a group…or should I say, it once had me”. Or, perhaps more accurately, “something larger had both me and it”.

Implications for 4/5th Order Post-Modern Interdisciplinary Teacher Teams
Admittedly, looking for coherence of order-of-mind through the data of dialogue within interdisciplinary teams is different than working with speech or a therapy session. The constructive-developmental lens is a valid way to explore how these groups make meaning and how they can improve in the future.

What would 4/5th-order interdisciplinary groups look like? Would a group such as this have a ‘self’? To what extent does it make sense to think about two selves—the collection of “individual within the group” selves, and the “group” self (Kegan, 2000)? How might these two selves be in dialogue with each other and how might they shape each other (Kegan, 2000)? According to Kegan (2000):
The leap we need in the next century is a way of bringing these kinds of knowledge together. It’s not that you just have individual sources of action who then sometimes clump together in groups. Nor is it the case that the group itself is the sole overriding definer of reality. You have to keep in mind that there are individuals, each making their own sense of that system. This goes back to the idea…that the way in which we’ve created these knowledge silos–these independent, non-communicating knowledge sources–has left us with a very fragmented way of thinking about the complexities of persons living in groups. If we can find ways to really reach out, draw hands across these different ways of thinking, we’ll come to some much richer sense of the way each hand washes the other, the way in which each of these systemic sources of action, the individual and the group, are each conditioning and conditioned by the other.

Let’s apply Kegan’s quote to our three teachers. Suppose the group was just made up of the three individuals outlined in this paper. If Megan has 3rd-ish order structuring, Chris has 4ish-order structuring, Laurie has 4/5ish-order structuring, and the “group self” has (very hypothetically) a coherent structuring around the 4th order, how do we account for the possibility that the “individual selves” and the “group self” might interact with each other in highly complex and unpredictable ways? In Kegan’s language, how do we take into consideration that within that group there are also individuals who themselves are sources of action (Kegan, 2000)? Megan, in some circumstances, may “drag the group order down” proportionally more than one might intuit, or perhaps in some circumstances, Laurie might “lift the group up” proportionally more than one might expect. How might we create complexity models that capture the collective influence of these various “order-of-mind-influences” on the group as a whole?

What would it mean to bring a group together that consistently examines the boundaries of the meaning systems of each of its disciplines and then mediates among them? How much could we count on a group like this to distinguish themes that fall outside the traditional interpretations of the disciplines and synthesize them into something more “trans-disciplinary”? How do we maximize the chance that such groups develop a greater sense of community—to actually meet on their own for coffee—and perhaps create more transformative curricula than current school reformers and leaders could ever wish for? How could we maximize the chance that these groups would become more self-guided, self-motivated, self-evaluative working groups that could anticipate the direction of, and anticipate the needs of, the modern world? How might we foster the emergence of groups that actively seek to understand and even collaborate with other highly conscious and high-functioning interdisciplinary communities of teachers around the world? How might we empower the emergence of interdisciplinary groups that see the world’s children as everyone’s children, a kind of interdisciplinary group that operates in the general neighborhood of the Gandhi or Martin Luther King order-of-consciousness?

Before disappearing into the dreamy world of high idealism, it is important to acknowledge a certain paradox. The “best” interdisciplinary group is not so much based on how many teachers within it operate at higher orders of mind; rather, what is important is the closeness of fit between how they construct interdisciplinary curriculum and the specific kids they serve. Perhaps the “best” interdisciplinary team would have members who are themselves differentiated with respect to their orders of mind in such a way that they meet the largest number of kids where those kids are at, developmentally. In that sense, the team must be both “inter-disciplinary” and “inter-order-of-mind”.

Finally, let us not fall into the trap of assuming that interdisciplinary methodologies are the silver bullet for reforming education. Let us not ourselves fall into the “polarity problem” that interdisciplinary fields and disciplinary fields exist within an either/or polarity or duality with each other. There will always be a need for both interdisciplinary and disciplinary perspectives; the challenge is to synthesize them into a more expansive whole (Kegan, 2000).


Grossman, P., Wineberg, S. (2001). Toward a theory of teacher community. Teachers College Record, 103, 942-1012.
Kegan, R. and Lahey, L.L. (2009). Immunity to Change, Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Kegan, R. (1994). In Over our Heads, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Scharmer, Claus Otto (2000), Grabbing the Tiger by the Tail: A Conversation with Robert Kegan: Harvard Gradute School of Education.


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