Travel Information



Poster Abstracts

TRUSE Mini-Grants



The Value and the Challenge of Interdisciplinary Research in STEM Education

David E. Meltzer
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
Arizona State University

Collaborative research and development work among diverse STEM education fields is not only potentially fruitful, it is necessary in order to realize the full potential of research-based educational innovations. At the same time, such work brings many challenges that must be acknowledged and effectively addressed. I will discuss these ideas from three different perspectives informed by 10 years of ongoing interdisciplinary work: (1) Undergraduate students typically encounter foundational STEM concepts in multiple courses in diverse fields of study. Innovative efforts to improve instruction in one field will inevitably fall short of their potential if educators in other fields fail to take account of these changes and make appropriate adjustments to instruction in their own areas; (2) STEM education researchers who collaborate on joint projects will often find their divergent backgrounds and viewpoints allow them to see things from very different perspectives, and to provide insights and recognize potential where long-term habituation can make similar perceptions practically inaccessible to workers in their own field; (3) Effective communication among researchers in different fields is crucial, yet challenging. Technical terms and even non-technical words frequently have significantly different meanings or connotations in different fields. Issues that pose major concerns for one field may be non-issues for the other, considered to be outside the area of interest and thus not worth attention or investigation. Effective work requires careful attention and sustained effort to becoming familiar and comfortable with each others' language, idiom, and conventions. This includes symbolic and diagrammatic representations, guiding themes, and major conceptual issues.