Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

How Can Interdisciplinary Collaboration between Schools Promote Culturally Diverse Students' Success?

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

How Can Interdisciplinary Collaboration between Schools Promote Culturally Diverse Students' Success?

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

This article discusses interdisciplinary collaboration at Clayton State University (CSU), a technology-focused, suburban, commuter university with a very diverse student population. Although it is located in a suburban area, CSU, located in Morrow, Georgia, shares many characteristics of urban universities. Its diverse student body varies by age, culture, and ethnicity. In the spring of 2008, the average age of the 5,935 students in the university (and in the School of Business) was 28 years, and the average age of the nursing students was 29 years. The university student body was 70.0% females and 30.09% males. Both the 2002 and the 2005 editions of America's Best Colleges, published by U.S. News and World Report, stated that CSU had the most diverse student body among comprehensive baccalaureate granting colleges in the southern United States. As of spring, 2008, the university's student body included a population of 27.94% White and 54.21% African-Americans.

CSU SPRING 2008

Although the institution embraces its richly diverse student population, there are challenges to teaching and retaining them due to a variety of factors. Many students attending CSU are first generation college students, single parents, hold full time jobs and/or speak English as their second language. According to Schmidt (2008), the single factor that has made a difference on behalf of minority students is the attention given to them and improving how they are served. This paper describes collaborative efforts between the School of Business and School of Nursing to fulfill the institution's mission to improve student success. Prior to describing these collaborative strategies, a brief literature review is provided on the meaning of interdisciplinary collaboration.

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THE MEANING OF INTERDISCIPLINARY COLLABORATION IN A UNIVERSITY SETTING

Collaboration implies "collective action oriented toward a common goal" (D-Amour et al., 2005, p. 116). A review of seminal educational literature reveals the common characteristics of collaboration that include the sharing of common goals and values, engagement in an interactive process, mutual control over decisions made and actions taken, and shared ownership of responsibilities and outcomes (Casto & Julia, 1994; Hord, 1986; Knapp, 1998; McCroskey & Einbinder, 1998; Wood & Gray, 1991).

In their review of the literature for definitions of collaboration, D-Amour, et al. (2005) identified the term sharing used in the form of shared responsibilities (Arcangelo, 1994; Arslanian-Engoren, 1995; Cowan & Tviet, 1994; Henneman, Lee & Cohen, 1995; Liedtka & Whitten, 1998; Lindeke & Block, 1998), shared values (Clark, 1997; Henneman, 1995), and shared planning and intervention (Baggs & Schmitt, 1988; Lindeke & Block, 1998). They also identified the term partnership that is characterized by a collegial relationship (Arslanina-Engoren, 1995; Henneman, 1995; King, 1990).

Martin-Rodriguez, et al. (2005) describes the educational system as "one of the main determinants of interprofessional collaborative practice" (p. 137) and explains that interdisciplinary collaboration promotes students' awareness, sharing and the "integration of their knowledge and practices" (p. 137). They further explain that, although university faculty work together on collaborative projects to promote the university's mission, members of each profession know little about the values and expertise of their colleagues because of their involvement in teaching their respective discipline-specific frameworks. Therefore, understanding the roles of other disciplines in the university facilitates the development of interdisciplinary collaboration and the accomplishment of the university's mission, in this case, to promote student success (Silen-Lipponen, et al., 2002).

Institutional support is critical not only to academic disciplines as they promote the fulfillment of the institution's mission, but also when disciplines seek collaboration as a means to draw upon the strengths of each to develop strategies to promote student success. …

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