Building a Truly Multi-Disciplinary University Centre

October 4, 2016

Associate Professor, Lina Markauskaite, shares her experiences and expertise from the new Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation (CRLI) at the University of Sydney, Australia.


Markauskaite is the Deputy Director of the new Centre, CRLI, which has grown from an earlier Centre based at the Faculty of Education and Social Work. She has been actively involved in the process of helping the new Centre to cross discipline and Faculty lines to become a truly university-wide Centre. Her experience and expertise is therefore highly relevant to SLATE. She was at SLATE and gave a guest lecture September, 2016.


Top Down and Bottom Up Approaches


The University of Sydney has undertaken a huge initiative to support multi-disciplinary research initiatives, actually building new facilities for a number of new multi-disciplinary centres to enable researchers to co-locate across the traditional Faculty lines. Markauskaite says that while the establishment of a physical location for the centre provides a critical organisational framework and infrastructure for research collaboration, she underlines the importance of “bottom up” strategies to stimulate “ownership” on the part of researchers and participants.



Markauskaite explained that before the Centre’s official opening they aimed to engage potential participants into the process of creating CRLI’s strategy by asking them all for input – leadership, management, researchers, partners and students. Each was asked two things: what they expected from CRLI and what they could contribute to CRLI. The actual Opening in August 2016 prioritised showing the diversity of the Centre’s potential participants both in terms of disciplines and in terms of career status (students and seasoned researchers). It included  short presentations of a broad range of projects so that as many participants as reasonably possible could be profiled.


As the CRLI became active, special interest or thematic groups began to form with new constellations across disciplines and research domains. Currently, CRLI has 4 such groupings, with specialised seminars and gatherings.


Multi- Inter- Trans- Cross-


In Educational eResearch, in Learning Sciences, in Learning & Technology, researchers often come from specialised disciplines and research fields, and need to learn to work effectively across disciplines. Alexander Refsum Jensenius has a diagram showing the differences and progression between multi- inter- trans- and cross-discipline.



Bridging the gap between disciplines, moving from multi- to trans-, requires effort and curiosity. Markauskaite says that is works best when people from different disciplines need to problem solve together. This corresponds very well with the focus of SLATE’s Cluster 3 research activity, which will be led by Postdoc Ingunn Ness. You can learn more about Markauskaite’s work in this area from the book she has co-authored with Peter Goodyear, entitled “Epistemic Fluency and Professional Education: Innovation, Knowledgeable Action and Actionable Knowledge” (Springer 2016). It is available for free download from UiB’s library. There is also a supporting website.

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