New Paper on Designing Transdisciplinarity

In this new article published in the Journal of Public Affairs Education, we discuss institutional drivers and barriers to collaborative transdisciplinary teaching as experienced through the Virginia Tech’s Honors College SuperStudio.


Employers increasingly desire new graduates to work across boundaries, in teams, and with developed soft skills, especially in public affairs. Likewise, students increasingly seek academic experiences for learning, practicing, and honing transferable, competency-based skills. This suggests instructors should explore alternative pedagogy engaging problem definition and transdisciplinary teamwork. We describe institutional drivers and barriers to collaborative transdisciplinarity in undergraduate teaching and the structure and processes involved in developing a co-taught studio-based capstone involving public affairs students and varied other unrelated majors. We describe the structure through which the “SuperStudio” (1) combines topic concentrations with a shared policy context allowing students to apply disciplinary knowledge to define transdisciplinary problems and (2) fosters collaborative teaching and strategic exploration of overarching issues like problem framing, equity, and effective communication. We then offer lessons learned regarding the drivers and barriers to such efforts, and advice from institutional decision-makers on designing such courses at other institutions.

Suggested citation: Anne-Lise Velez, Hall, R.P., and Lewis, S.N. (2021) Designing transdisciplinarity: Exploring institutional drivers and barriers to collaborative transdisciplinary teaching. Journal of Public Affairs Education, DOI: 10.1080/15236803.2021.1992196.