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Transdisciplinarity: Our approach

The Work and Learning Research Centre has been particularly successful in carrying out research which informs professional learning programme content, from certificate to doctoral level, within and beyond its own university. Transdisciplinarity connotes a unity of knowledge beyond disciplines that has been developed over the last 30 years. Our research centre has developed a transdisciplinarity approach from the knowledge co-creation between the Institute for Work Based Learning and professional communities, bodies and organisations in the UK and internationally. It is used as an approach for practitioner-researchers undertaking work based projects as part of their Work Based Learning and Professional Studies awards. The transdisciplinarity approach is able to address the complexities that arise for individuals and organisations when scoping and carrying out research into professional practice for a range of purposes.

In this enduring and successful engagement, leaders, managers and employees from a wide range of sectors who are on our programmes explore and navigate through the complex nature of their everyday work. Our conception of work encompasses all workers paid and unpaid and all valued contributions to practice. Such diverse domains of practices and disciplines, both within and outside organisations and professional communities enable candidates on our programmes to arrive at innovative and relevant change programmes or solutions to sticky problems. The transdisciplinary approach recognises that the professional is no longer discipline bound but negotiates across a range of disciplines and seeks solutions through using knowledge and skills drawn from diverse fields and domains.

This research into theorising practice and underpinning programme content stimulates the evolution of methodologies and practices relevant to current and future world concerns and agendas which requires cooperation and knowledge co-creation with different domains of practice, cultures and attitudes. Embracing difference is an integral part of a transdisciplinary approach to knowledge.

Transdisciplinarity is context dependent, focused on change or improvement, embracing of complexity and primarily concerned with application and the theory that lies behind it rather than being theory-led.  The Transdisciplinary approach has therefore worked well for the practitioner-research activities carried out by candidates who range from doctorates to apprenticeships and foundation levels. They are research, development and practice focused, seek evidence based innovative and relevant practices and solutions and the development of research mindedness in every undertaking.

The Work and Learning Research Centre is committed to providing innovative approaches to improving the ethics, practice and understanding of work based and professional learning. Candidates carry out research projects which are designed to bring benefit to the individual, the organisation/body and its members and to the communities in which they operate. Evidence has to be produced to demonstrate that these research projects and the outcomes have been placed in the public, academic or professional domain where they can influence thinking and practice. It has had significant impact on their roles and on organisational / professional practices, policies and strategies.

This particular approach to knowledge and methodologies as evolving rather than prescribed has been referred to as a new paradigm in educational thinking.

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