This blog discusses cross-disciplinary work I am involved with. As an evaluator within New Zealand Police, my role is primarily at the police college covering all five schools (or areas of organisational focus) as shown below in Figure 1.
I also occasionally carry out evaluations for district community projects, which uses an integrative approach. An example provided is the Youth Leadership Programme being run in Wellington District. This is a new programme for 2017 and needs evaluating to evidence it is fit for purpose. What being ‘fit for purpose’ is means different things to the different groups involved in the programme at different levels of influence and experiences as beneficiaries of the programme. Figure 2 highlights the main stakeholder groups and their different levels of collaboration and participation.
The circles highlighted in orange are intended beneficiaries of the programme so they need to be included as many of the intended outcomes will be potentially be captured by feedback from them.
The circles in blue are different police areas (or disciplines) contributing a mixture of resources, including human, equipment and/or financial.
The green area represents our external partners who are connected to the police through CART – a not-for-profit organisation working with and for hard-to-reach and difficult-to-deal-with communities.
In this instance the interdisciplinary relationship is principally between evaluation approaches of CART and of NZ Police in identifying what works well, what needs to be improved, and what lessons have been learnt that are shareable in other areas. This is in line with what Mathison & Freeman (1997. p.11) define as the purpose of an integrative approach, which “seeks to transcend the disciplines into a more interconnected view of the universe”, and “places students in a participatory role in the formation of integrated views”. In the instance of the course participants on the youth leadership programme it means they are active contributors to programme content choices and what is emphasized in goals where appropriate.
The differences in levels of integration and features in an interdisciplinary approach are outlined in Tables 1 and 2 below.
Working with CART to co-produce and achieve an evaluation approach which will work for both Police and CART in terms of outcomes has not been without its challenges, as what is defined as success for the police is not necessarily the same outcomes as those sought by CART. This has resulted in the need for additional meetings to highlight where we converge and where we differ on the overall purpose and measure outcomes that will define success. This has meant we need to understand the mission of each organisation and what we are trying to jointly achieve in working with young people in developing their leadership skills.
Jones (2009. P 1) notes the benefits and challenges of interdisciplinary practice, which may include “expanding student understanding and achievement between all disciplines or enhancing communication skills” as benefits and have disadvantages, “such as integration confusion and time-consuming curriculum preparation”. To overcome these challenges joint planning, decision-making, and goal-setting has focussed on where our commonalities are, which is achieving positive outcomes for young people at risk and developing them so they may support their peers. It is important in considering our joint approaches that the entire programme and not just the evaluation component is sustainable over time. Figure 3 provides a model for achieving successful interdisciplinary collaboration.
The different area are further explained in Table 3 below.
All of the qualifiers for successful collaboration between CART and Police have been negotiated and agreed over time, although they still need tot be formalised into an MOU to refer to moving forward through the different stages of the youth leadership programme. This is on the agenda for next steps moving forward.
Jones, C.(2009). Interdisciplinary approach – Advantages, disadvantages, and the future benefits of interdisciplinary studies. ESSAI7 (26), 76-81. Retrieved from http://dc.cod.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1121&context=essai
Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997. Retrieved from http://www.albany.edu/cela/reports/mathisonlogic12004.pdf
Mulligan, Laura MacLeod and Dr. Adam J. Kuban. (2015) A Conceptual Model for Interdisciplinary Collaboration. Retrieved from: http://acrlog.org/2015/05/14/a-conceptual-model-for-interdisciplinary-collaboration./