In school, you probably had subjects like Mathematics, Physics, History, Biology, Psychology, Accounting, and so on. Many school systems treat these subjects as having hard boundaries without connections to each other. In this article, I’m going to explore various ways in which disciplines, or parts of disciplines, can have meaningful connections.
One obvious way disciplines are related is in the object being studied. For instance, psychology, neuroscience, economics, sociology, and anthropology all study humans, but different aspects of humans. Psychology and neuroscience study the human mind while economics, sociology and anthropology study human society.
Similarly, physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, neuroscience, economics, sociology, and anthropology all study different aspects of matter. Some of them deal with matter which is living, while others are not concerned about life.
Another way disciplines are connected is in their utility to solve problems. In the fight against global poverty, we utilize economics, but also medicine, engineering and psychology amongst others disciplines.
Disciplines can also be related by their use in coming to conclusions in each other. For instance, mathematics and statistics find themselves being applied in almost every empirical discipline.
While all of these connections between disciplines are crucial, at Inquire we focus on the ways in which knowledge construction is similar across disciplines, at what we call a transdisciplinary level.
As an example, all the sciences and social sciences have empirical evidence as their ultimate grounds. Theories in mathematics, the sciences, and ethics have a similar structure – there are certain things we assume (called laws in science and axioms in mathematics) and certain things we define, from which we come to conclusions using reasoning. The types of reasoning used might be different in these different areas of study. However, at a certain level of abstraction, the structure of theories in these areas is similar.
Inquire aims to develop in students the ability to construct and evaluate knowledge in various disciplines. In other words, we attempt to develop the ability to engage in research across disciplines using examples which students can engage with – examples which do not require an in depth understanding of a field of study.
This blog post was written by Madhav Kaushish.
Madhav Kaushish got his PhD in Mathematics, with a focus on Mathematics Education, at The University of Arizona in 2021. His focus for his PhD was on students constructing mathematical theories, and his thesis was titled 'Theory Building in Geometry Education.' Before starting on his PhD, Madhav co-founded ThinQ (www.thinq.education), a non-profit which aims at developing critical thinking and inquiry abilities in students. Before that, he worked with Learn Today, the educational arm of India Today, developing curriculum and managing their online product development team. His first venture after graduating from Oberlin College in 2011 was founding a startup, SmarterGrades, an online, adaptive numeracy learning portal. Madhav writes on mathematical and other thinking abilities at madhavkaushish.substack.com.