Lessons from 30 Years of Interdisciplinary Study: The Case of First Year Foundation Units at Murdoch University

Assoc. Prof. Lorraine Marshall
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Since its inception in 1975 Murdoch University in Western Australia has claimed interdisciplinarity to be one of its distinguishing features. Today, the university is unusual in Australia in that it specifies ‘interdisciplinarity’ as one of the attributes students are expected to have when they graduate, that is ‘A capacity to acquire knowledge and understanding of fields of study beyond a single discipline’. Murdoch University has also been unusual in the Australian context in that since 1975 all students have been introduced to interdisciplinary study in compulsory first year Foundation units that are the corner stone of a Part 1 program of studies. They aim to introduce students to university study, provide a broad perspective and expose students to a range of disciplines and teaching styles. Encouraging the exploration of a range of options before students proceed to their chosen field of study is dependent on a tradition of flexibility that enables students to move easily between and across disciplines. Over the years the Part 1 program has been eroded by disciplinary demands on students but recently the value of a general first year is being reaffirmed as other Australian universities investigate and instigate first year programs of studies. This presentation will describe Murdoch University’s experience with Foundation units and outline the lessons that have been learned over the past 30 years.

Keywords: Interdisciplinary Study, Graduate Attributes, Generic Skills, Cirtical Thinking, Independent and Lifelong Learning, Curriculum Development
Stream: Education and Social Welfare
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Assoc. Prof. Lorraine Marshall

Associate Professor, Division of Academic Affairs
Teaching and Learning Centre, Murdoch University

Murdoch, Western Australia, Australia

Lorraine Marshall is a foundation staff member of Murdoch University who established and led Student Learning support for many years. She has extensive experience in undergraduate teaching, staff development, open and distance learning, and the development of online multimedia materials. She is the author of two books: A guide to learning independently (with Frances Rowland) now in its fourth edition and A learning companion (2006). She is currently Convener of Murdoch's first year Foundation Units with oversight of their curriculum, teaching and governance.

Ref: I07P0256