Volume 5 · Number 3 · Pages 144–157
Constructivist Curriculum Design for the Interdisciplinary Study Programme MEi:CogSci – A Case Study

Elisabeth Zimmermann, Markus F. Peschl & Brigitte Römmer-Nossek

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Abstract

Context: Cognitive science, as an interdisciplinary research endeavour, poses challenges for teaching and learning insofar as the integration of various participating disciplines requires a reflective approach, considering and making explicit different epistemological attitudes and hidden assumptions and premises. Only few curricula in cognitive science face this integrative challenge. Problem: The lack of integrative activities might result from different challenges for people involved in truly interdisciplinary efforts, such as discussing issues on a conceptual level, negotiating colliding frameworks or sets of premises, asking profound questions challenging one’s own paradigm, and differences in terminologies, as well as from the “personal” challenge of realising one’s own limits of knowledge and, hence, the need to trust in another person’s expertise. This implies that the proposed curriculum structure provides an “epistemic laboratory”: a space for experiencing and negotiating, as well as constructing different viewpoints in a trustful setting. Approach: A newly-designed interdisciplinary cognitive science curriculum is presented that is based on a constructivist epistemology. We suggest that a careful construction of the learning space is a necessary requirement. The MEi:CogSci curriculum is designed and structured in such a way that enables didactical measures that allow for collaborative construction of meaning by discussing concepts, methods and terminologies and also hidden assumptions. Findings: The experience with four cohorts of students has shown that a truly interdisciplinary approach to cognitive science demands a different attitude towards knowledge as well as towards teaching and learning on both sides: the teacher and the student. The research orientation promotes an understanding of knowledge as something that is actively constructed, rendering the role of the teacher that of a co-learner rather than a transmitter of knowledge, thereby also changing the responsibility of students.

Key words: learning space, interdisciplinarity, cognitive science, curriculum design, epistemological reflection, teacher, constructivist pedagogy

Citation

Zimmermann E., Peschl M. F. & Römmer-Nossek B. (2010) Constructivist curriculum design for the interdisciplinary study programme mei:Cogsci – a case study. Constructivist Foundations 5(3): 144–157. http://constructivist.info/5/3/144

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