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Acquisition of T-shaped expertise: an exploratory study

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Disciplinary boundaries become increasingly unclear when grappling with “wicked problems,” which present a complex set of policy, cultural, technological, and scientific dimensions. “T-shaped” professionals, i.e. individuals with a depth and breadth of expertise, are being called upon to play a critical role in complex problem-solving. This paper unpacks the notion of the “T-shaped expert” and seeks to situate it within the broader academic literature on expertise, integration, and developmental learning. A component of this project includes an exploratory study, which is aimed at evaluating the emergent attributes of T-shaped expertise in two different educational programs completed between January and May in 2015. The two programs build disciplinary knowledge in science, technology engineering, and mathematics fields at the core (vertical dimension), while expanding the students’ awareness and comprehension of other expertise (horizontal dimension). The courses introduced science and engineering students to case study topics focusing around complex human-technological-ecological systems in a nanotechnology and society course; and the governance of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in a science, technology, and society course. We analyze pre- and post-test data from this pilot project before presenting findings that pertain to student learning, as well as variants in the methodology and reflect on the utility (and limitations) of the selected methodology for evaluating expertise as it evolves over time. The paper closes with a discussion of a theory of acquisition with implications for delineating early attributes and characteristics of T-shaped expertise.
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Acquisition of T
-
shaped expertise: an exploratory study
Journal:
Social Epistemology
Manuscript ID
TSEP-2015-0039
Manuscript Type:
Original Article
Keywords:
T-shaped, Expertise, Concept Mapping, Integration, Engagement
URL: http:/mc.manuscriptcentral.com/tsep
Social Epistemology
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Introduction
Complex problems facing our society today demand skills and knowledge from a
diversity of disciplines to engage in problem solving. The demand for young
professionals who possess both a wealth of knowledge in one system and the ability to
perform cross-disciplinary collaboration is currently growing in importance in today’s
workforce. Enhancing a student’s breadth of expertise, often associated with T-shaped
engineers, is being called upon to train the ‘new employees of digital age’ (Birchall
2012). The horizontal bar of the ‘T’ represents a breadth of expertise, an ability to
speak multiple ‘languages’, while the vertical part of the ‘T’ represents a depth of
expertise in a specific knowledge domain. Companies are calling for these T-shaped
professionals with ‘in-depth knowledge of one discipline and a broad knowledge base in
adjacent areas or in general business or entrepreneurial fields’ (Oskam 2009, 1).
The need to be competent in a single discipline is necessary to develop
competent professionals. Yet, the ability to work with individuals from other disciplinary
backgrounds and seamlessly exchange knowledge between fields of study is essential
for collective problem-solving among the next generation of professionals. IBM (among
many other companies) wants to hire university graduates who either already possess
or are able to acquire T-shaped expertise. In collaboration with Michigan State
University, IBM co-sponsors the annual ‘T-Summit’ conference, which brings together
business and technology leaders, with practitioners and academics, to assess the need
for T-shaped professionals and reflect on approaches to workforce education and
professional development.
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Broadly, our interest is in understanding how T-shaped expertise is acquired.
One answer has come from STS scholars who use the term ‘interactional expertise’ to
refer to learning the ‘language’ of another expertise without having to master all the
disciplinary methods and practices (Gorman 2010). Interactional expertise represents a
particular form of T-shaped expertise, one that is acquired by a lengthy immersion in an
expert community other than one’s own (Collins and Evans 2002). While the notion of
interactional expertise is useful for thinking about the development of T-shaped
expertise over long timeframes, there is however, a limited theoretical framing for the
acquisition of multiple expertise.
Thus, our research attends to the characteristics and attributes for the acquisition
of multiple expertise, which individuals may demonstrate during discrete timeframes,
specifically undergraduate science and engineering contexts. Therefore, our research
methods center on educational contexts designed to cultivate the development of
multiple expertise, rather than building a singular disciplinary expertise. This research
supports the elementary formation of a theory of acquisition of T-shaped expertise and
how that theory can be constructed and evaluated.
A brief history of the ‘T-shaped’ expert
Guest (1991) is credited with first mentioning the term ‘T-shaped’ in an article
that argues for the so-called ‘renaissance man’ as a practitioner who could effectively
integrate business expertise and information technology skills and capable of
considering both the technical and social components within the larger system. A ‘T-
shaped’ manager would therefore be more versatile, if they possess a deep knowledge
in one field and recognition of other expertise. Amber (2000) built upon this notion and
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calls for a new ‘T-shaped’ individual who possesses a depth of expertise in a certain
field, but with the ability to extend into unknown fields of study. By integrating seemingly
incommensurate disciplines, a new type of scientist will be equipped with the necessary
skills to solve ‘real world’ problems, which are not confined to a single discipline. The
term ‘T-shaped’ is not exclusive to scientists, as it is also considered as an attribute of
more adaptable communication specialists for media agencies that possesses a deep
understanding of the media sphere of knowledge, as well as a broad comprehension of
the various other disciplines (Bannerman 2003). The multidisciplinary nature of the
knowledge and skillset that these individuals must possess allows them to bring unique
new perspectives to the problems at hand. IDEO’s CEO, Tim Brown, explains that the
concept of T-shaped people has influenced their approach to talent management as the
vertical stroke of the ‘T’ is a depth of skills that aids in innovation, and the horizontal
stroke represents the ‘disposition for collaboration across disciplines’ (Brown 2010).
Conceptual frameworks that complement T-shaped expertise
Scholarship on engagement, interactional expertise, socio-technical integration,
and trading zones are introduced here to frame the theoretical developments that this
article offers (for an overview, see Fisher et al 2015). First, engagement is introduced as
one means for bringing together diverse knowledge sets. Interactional expertise is then
discussed as a particular form of expertise to learn the language of another discipline
and functionally interact with experts in that discipline. Socio-technical integration
sheds light on the ability for interactions between different epistemic communities to
stimulate reflection. Trading zones are a conceptual framing for the spaces in which
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multiple disciplines work together to achieve goals that no one disciplines could handle
alone.
Engagement refers to the intentional inclusion of individuals representing diverse
publics and epistemic communities in decision-making processes (Chilvers 2007).
Citizen participation efforts arise from efforts in planning and governing shared
resources (Arnstein 1969). Engagement activities that are inclusive expand the diversity
of knowledge and values incorporated into decisions and enhance the legitimacy,
relevance, and salience of decisions on technological pursuits (Clark et al. 2011).
Engagement can systematically brings to bear a diversity of perspectives (not usually
represented in the organizations that traditionally take decisions) on problem solving.
Such inclusiveness may help decision-makers reconsider the goals of a project and
ensure that activities adhere to a democratic qua ‘good process’ and deliver on a
plurality of interests and information. However engagement efforts can face presumptive
attitudes from ‘experts’ about the role of laypersons (Corley and Scheufele 2010).
Including groups external to the focus group in a participatory process introduces
alternative ways of knowing and understanding the world, i.e. greater epistemic and
ontological diversity (Wynne 1993). Often social groups, external to traditional
technoscientific communities will respond to an absence of adequate knowledge and
create their own knowledge that suits their needs, as observed by Fischer (1993).
Alternatively, if technoscientific communities ignore experiential knowledge from key
stakeholders, the decisions taken will cause harm that may or may not be reversible
(Wynne 1993).
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Engagement activities can lead to shared inquiry and shared problem
understanding in a manner that equitably accounts for various knowledge sources and
means of understanding, but may also lead to isolation and alienate publics from
experts (Wynne 2001). While the T-shaped expert must have a comprehension of
knowledge domains (depth in at least one domain, and a working, integrated
understanding of other domains), it is also necessary to have an understanding of and
engagement with impacted stakeholder communities in order to have a sense of the
broader contexts that problems are embedded in. Awareness of the needs of
stakeholder communities, and valuing and integrating experiential stakeholder
knowledge, enables the T-shaped expert to act as an ‘engagement agent’ (Conley
2011), moving between multiple levels and domains of knowledge and practice.
Interactional expertise describes the ability to speak the language of another
discipline without being a practitioner (Collins, Evans & Gorman 2007). For example,
Collins (2004) mastered the language of gravitational wave physics; he could carry on
sophisticated conversations about the problems and opportunities at the cutting edge of
the field, knew what the best facilities were and why, and could even tell jokes that only
other gravitational wave physicists would laugh at. But he could not perform
experiments or do mathematical analysis. In a trading zone, interactional experts can
act as agents, facilitating exchanges because they understand the languages of more
than one expertise community.
Interactional expertise refers only to mastery of the language of an expertise. T-
shaped expertise includes understanding not only more than one discipline but also
more than one system and incorporates the acquisition of communication skills (see
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http://www.ceri.msu.edu/t-shaped-professionals/). Interactional expertise is gained by
immersion in a community of expertise different than one’s own. T-shaped is more of a
frontier concept that allows for the possibility of multiple paths to creating a T on top of a
vertical core expertise. Professionals and students could be trained to become more
facile at the acquisition of T-shaped skills.
Socio-technical integration involves the bringing together diverse disciplinary
persons in a process that often results in both parties questioning one’s actions, beliefs
and assumptions, often by accepting the limits of one’s knowledge (Fisher and Rip
2013; Rip and van Lente 2013; Robbins 2007). Barben (2010, 654) defines this aspect
of socio-technical integration as a means to achieve reflexive governance, ‘an actor’s
capacity to consider his or her own decision-making with respect to the dynamics,
characteristics, and institutionalized aims of a particular domain of practice, including
the action of others.’ Socio-technical integration is critical to learning and iterative
improvements in dynamic processes in which actors recognize broader human, social,
and material dimensions that connect to their research and offers an opportunity for
actors to reconsider their present actions and to alter their course (Fisher et al. 2006).
As a learning process socio-technical integration is theorized to enable alignment
among individuals and organizations involved in solving complex, societal problems.
Trading zones are a means to address the ways in which collaboration so difficult
when there is a common problem which requires multiple expertises to solve it. Kuhn
(1962) explained why experts from different research communities cannot communicate
effectively: they operate within different paradigms, which means they have unique
epistemological frameworks and methodologies that analyze data in ways that are not
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easily translated. Galison (1997) noted that physicists and engineers are able to work
together to develop complex technological systems like radar. Contrary to Kuhn’s notion
of incommensurate disciplinary knowledge, as in the case of radar, expertise from
diverse disciplinary origins was brought together in a trading zone (Gorman 2010). This
began as exchanging time and resources in a compartmentalized fashion, but gradually
a shared jargon developed, which led to eventually a creole language that allowed them
to exchange knowledge and solve problems that transcended traditional disciplinary
boundaries. As such, persons in a trading zone can share knowledge more rapidly if
one or more members have interactional expertise, introduced above, which is the
ability to talk enough of the language of another discipline to communicate effectively
(Gorman 2010). A T-shaped individual can become a ‘trade agent’, in that they facilitate
exchanges between other individuals that share an overarching goal.
The need for T-shaped professionals
In today’s highly competitive workforce, engineers and scientists need to develop an
ability to leverage their disciplinary training and collaborate with others. The need for
young professionals to possess T-shaped skills goes beyond sharpening their skills and
demands a well-rounded person capable of excelling in a competitive workforce.
Employers are placing high importance on hiring ‘T-shaped’ professionals, but the
training of students to embody the T-shaped model is a slow and difficult process. Irving
(1998, 3) describes higher education for engineers as, ‘the equivalent of bricklayers,
rather than cathedral builders’. The implications is that higher education institutions
need to reconceptualize the professionalization of engineering and science in both the
disciplinary and cross-disciplinary directions.
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The Educational Advisory Board (EAB) believes this is of utmost importance and
call for new methods to develop T-shaped professionals based on a new employer
rubric for skills and competencies (COE Forum 2014). This call for change confronts
challenges in established curriculum that are divided by disciplinary expertise. This
segregation leaves humanities and Liberal Arts students without specialized technical
skills, and conversely leaves STEM students without strong writing, communication, and
presentation skills; essential for success in the workforce.
Oskam (2009) discusses interdisciplinary innovation as a problem of decreased
capacity in the workforce, which he claims, belies a lack of technical and research skills
in management personnel, as well as low managerial skills among those who possess
scientific or technical capabilities. Heinemann (2009) asserts a need for a ‘T-shaped
enterprise engineer’ as the new generation of interdisciplinary professionals equipped
with the proper educational skills to break down barriers that exist between disciplines
and succeed in a global economy. According to Heinemann (2009, 4), ‘we are born into
this world as quasi ‘interdisciplinary creatures,’ and the older we get and the more we
identify knowledge packages resulting from knowledge acquisition and personal
reflection, the more we tend to become disciplinary creatures.’ Karjalainen, Koria, and
Salimäk (2009) propose a new program to educate T-shaped professionals who can
effectively combine design, business and technology knowledge. They argue that well-
functioning teams not only get along in daily activities, but also create a shared body of
knowledge that is more than the sum of individual members’ own knowledge and skills
(Karjalainen et al. 2009). The program focuses around the concept of interdisciplinary
study, which is understood as different disciplines addressing common challenges as
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equal stakeholders, creating new knowledge and aiming at increasing integration
(Karjalainen et al. 2009). Donofrio and colleagues (2010) make a compelling case for
STEM education to include more integrated curricula in order to remove the barriers that
are in place between disciplines among medical practitioners, which are exacerbated by
the rate at which knowledge and technology are produced (Donofrio, Spohrer, and
Zadeh 2010).
Research questions and case studies
Our research questions are: Can university students demonstrate acquisition of
multiple expertise while sharpening their own understanding of their core expertise?
How can the emergent attributes of T-shaped expertise be assessed? We developed a
series of pilot programs that gathered empirical research around these research
questions, while exploring the methodological strengths and weaknesses. This research
aims towards a theory of acquisition that can support individuals with a more rigorous
framework and set of tools for facilitating collaborations focused on complex socio-
technical systems that require the integration of multiple expertise. Research questions
are used in the Science, Technology & Society (STS) community in lieu of hypothesis,
because the former designates a more open-ended, exploratory investigation than the
latter. Specifically, we looked at whether courses that focus on making connections
between different knowledge domains, e.g. ‘societal dimensions of nanotechnology’
instigates students to acquire T-shaped expertise. Here we introduce the overarching
academic programs and the specific courses before delving into the conceptual
frameworks that are central to our investigation.
Case studies
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The Bachelors of Science in Integrated Science and Technology (BS-ISAT) at
JMU seeks to develop a depth of expertise and a sufficient breadth of expertise to
ensure that all matriculates can perform successfully in an interactional mode. Forty
miles away from JMU, on the other side of the Shenandoah Mountains, the School of
Engineering & Applied Science (SEAS) at the University of Virginia (UVA) obliges
students to select a major in their second year. All SEAS students take four courses in
Science, Technology and Society (STS). Students in both programs are expected to
integrate STS concepts and tools into traditional science, technology, engineering and
math (STEM) curriculum. The curriculum at JMU and UVA demonstrates an attempt to
offer students multidisciplinary expertise in order to tackle complex socio-technical
problems. ISAT and SEAS are relatively unique programs in the sense that they
intentionally integrate an STS approach into a four-year STEM curriculum. Thus, the
STS faculty at these institutions are well-positioned to investigate how undergraduate
students develop a depth and breadth of interactional expertise that enables them to be
‘T-shaped’ individuals – people capable of adeptly moving and conversing between
multiple domains of scientific practice.
1. Earth Systems Technology and Management (ESEM)
The goal of this UVA course is to introduce engineering and environmental
science students to alternative ways of thinking about coupled human-technological-
natural systems (Allenby 2000). These systems are complex, ‘wicked problems’,
meaning that a small change in one part may tip the whole system into a new state.
Wiek et al (2012) demonstrate that such ‘wicked problems’ can manifest in socio-energy
systems driving climate change, urban heat island effects and elevated heating and
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cooling expenditures. Instead of gradually getting warmer across the globe, local
weather will get more unpredictable and extreme and glacial melt could cause sudden
rises in sea level and shift ocean currents (Allenby 2000).
Engineering and environmental science students, combined with occasional
students from other disciplines like English are taught about trading zones, interactional
expertise and Earth Systems Engineering and Management in a seminar style, where
students read, write and ask questions. For their project, students select a national
park from the US or another country and think about how to manage it, consulting with
experts on these systems. The class used in this study had 9 students who worked for
about 10 days, with class for 5 hours a day plus one field trip to the Shenandoah
National Park where the Chief Park Scientist showed them threats from invasive
species, damage due to water, trail maintenance for tourism and provided background
on the park system as a whole.
2. Societal Dimensions of Nanotechnology (SocNano)
This course offered students an understanding of the process by which policy
and technology mutually shape federal funding initiatives by focusing on the National
Nanotechnology Initiative. Through the course, students are better prepared to work to
shape policies that would create techno-social systems that promise substantial future
benefits. Exploring these issues connects two apparently different expertises
(engineering and policy) to contribute to the development of T-shaped expertise among
the students. The course occurred over a 15-week semester with an enrollment of 36
students. Students are introduced to the policy environment and the variety and
complexity of funding sources for science and technology research. Another aspect of
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the course is applied social psychology, which involves being able to see one’s role in
this kind of a complex system and learn how to work with people in other roles with
other agendas. The course centered around an interactive simulation game that offered
students with an opportunity to take on specific roles and make science-policy
decisions. The simulation related to processes seen among actors and how they
resembled (or differed) from negotiations among actors in real-world policy situations.
3. Technology, Science, and Society
The Technology, Science, and Society (TSS) course at JMU introduces students
to the social aspects of technology and science and to the social science methods and
related philosophical and ethical analyses. Students are challenged to critically think
about what it means to engage in responsible scientific practice. The course met three
times a week for a fifteen-week semester during Spring 2015 with two sections
comprised of 16 students and 17 students, respectively. The course followed a blended
seminar format, with class periods consisting of a combination of lecture, small group
discussion, and large group discussion.
Students were divided into teams using the True Colors learning assessment tool
for constructing small groups that were a balanced combinations of the four learning
styles––i.e. ‘pragmatic thinkers,’ ‘action oriented,’ ‘independent thinkers,’ and ‘people
oriented’ (Crews et al 2010). The course culminated in a case study on genetically
modified organisms (GMOs), where students explored what makes knowledge credible.
Students were divided into expertise, or ‘knowledge domain’ groups focusing on policy,
science, social, and economic/legal issues. Each group played the role of ‘advisor’ to a
fictional state representative and grappled with the question of whether to propose GMO
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labeling legislation. The case study culminated in a ‘town hall’ activity where students
gave presentations with a final recommendation and submitted a paper that integrated
the multiple knowledge domains in providing an individual recommendation.
Research design and methods
To address the research questions, posed above, the team created a set of pre-
post tests to start to examine the acquisition of T-shaped expertise. The researchers
relied upon a well-established methodology to capture pre-post data––i.e. concept-
mapping exercises that have been employed in over 500 peer-reviewed journal articles
on learning outcomes (Nesbit and Adesope 2006). Despite the prevalence of concept
mapping in the literature, we interrogate this method in terms of its use as a tool for
evaluating the development of T-shaped expertise over discrete periods of time, e.g.
during an undergraduate course. Three different case study interventions were
developed in order to test the effect that the case content had on the methodology each
tailored to the individual course’s learning objectives. The seven-day ESEM course in
January 2015 at UVa served as a pilot study. Lessons from this pilot informed the
approach to T-shaped expertise in the SocNano course at UVA and the TSS course at
JMU followed. We will analyze pre and post-test data from this phase of the research.
The paper closes with a discuss of a theory of acquisition and initial reflections on the
utility (and limitations) of our methodology in evaluating expertise as it evolves over
time.
Participants
University of Virginia students taking Gorman’s ESEM course entailed eight
participants from three different colleges and equally divided between males and
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females. 30 participants in the SocNano course volunteered for this study and
completed all the requisite materials including, 23 males and seven females from across
five majors. At JMU, Conley taught two sections of the TSS course, and students from
both sections volunteered. One section drew 16 participants with 11 males and 5
females, while the other attracted 14 students with 13 males and 1 female. The study
includes 38 UVa and 30 JMU students with 51 males and 17 females for a total of 68
participants that completed the pre-post tests and 13 students consented to interviews.
Method: concept mapping
Concept mapping is a technique in which an overarching notion is represented
on paper in a manner that shows the relationships between different ideas and
combining them together to create a holistic picture of an idea. They are a two-
dimensional images created by a person using keywords (nodes) and linking phrases
(connections) to express a complex, encompassing concept (Patton 2008). People that
complete concept maps are not constrained by grammatical limitations and they are a
preferred evaluation tool for when there is no ‘perfect’ answer (Novak 1990). Murdy et
al. (2011) assert concepts maps can interrogate the meta-cognitive processes that
structure student knowledge acquired during a course of study.
Applying concept map methodology to T-shaped expertise
Grades are often used to assess student performance, however students can
enroll in a course with the capability to attain a top grade and therefore grades are a
poor measure of learning outcomes (Tucker and Courts 2010). Furthermore,
achievement levels reflected in course grades do not align, directly, with the acquisition
of T-shaped expertise. Therefore, this study used techniques to compare a student’s
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previous knowledge with the knowledge gained during the course using pre-post
concept maps to investigate the research questions. It is not clear if this assessment
method is appropriate to capture the acquisition of T-shaped expertise, as this has not
been done before. Therefore, we critically test and then reflect on this method.
Concept mapping: pre-post procedure
Students were shown a sample concept map not related to the subject matter
(e.g. apples and trees) and then given a blank piece of paper and pencil–-–an
acceptable format given pragmatic constraints (Muryanto 2006) and 20 minutes, which
is an optimal time period for concept mapping (McClure et al. 1999). Below are example
prompts from the JMU course. The pre-test prompt stated:
1. What is your core expertise? Generate a list of topics/concepts that come to
mind.
2. What other expertise would be needed to address the problem of Genetically
Modified Organism (GMO) labeling? Generate a list of possible topics/concepts
that come to mind.
3. Using the concepts that express your expertise and the expertise of others,
above, along with any additional terms or linking phrases, arrange the topics in a
cohesive concept map using the appropriate linking phrases, which may include
any from the following list.
The researchers altered the prompt in the three different courses to test the
influence of the prompt on the student’s responses. In the ESEM course the prompt
was for ‘Interactional Expertise’, while in the SocNano course the students had twice the
time to complete two concept maps with different prompts for the ‘National
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Nanotechnology Initiative’ and ‘Interactional Expertise’ instead of GMO labeling. In this
way, the research design was flexible and adapted over time. This reinforces our open
line of inquiry and unstructured investigation. The prompts asked participants to define
their own expertise (defined as minimally-directed task (Yin et al. 2005)), which more
accurately reflect participant knowledge (Ruiz-Primo et al. 2001).
Concept mapping: data analysis
Our research did not evaluate ‘validity’ or ‘relevance’ against expert-derived
concepts, as conducted by Regis et al (1996) and others studying the achievement of
‘perfect’ knowledge. Rather, our approach seeks to understand the student’s expression
of knowledge captured in the concept map. Prior to analysis, one research assistant
(with no role in coding) removed all unique identifiers and numbered them. Pre-test
concept maps were analyzed separately from post-test concept maps by one
researcher who coded the maps first, while a second researcher reviewed the coding.
Discrepancies were negotiated and consensus was reached for all codes (Miles and
Haberman 1994). First, a research assistant recorded the number of terms that the
student defined as their ‘core expertise’ on both the pre- and post- worksheets as
evidence to address the first research question. Secondarily, a research assistant
counted the nodes and connections expressed on the concept maps to bring evidence
to bear on the second research question. All the data was entered into a database for
analysis with paired t-test within individuals.
Interview methods
To address the third research question, interviews were conducted in person with
13 participants, totaling four participants from the SocNano course and nine participants
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from the TSS course. The interviews offer explanatory data to enrich the analysis of the
concept maps. The interviews generally followed the semi-structured interview
approach, which entails questions being prepared ahead of time, yet, because the
interviewee’s responses cannot be predicted ahead of time, also allows for flexibility and
improvisation (Wengraf 2001). The flexibility that the semi-structured interview
approach provides was appropriate for this project because it allowed the interviewer to
further inquire into students’ experiences, concept map comparisons, and perspectives
on the case studies via customized, improvised in-depth follow-up questions.
Results
Our pilot study suggests that students in their formative, undergraduate courses
can refine their understanding of their own core expertise and demonstrate an
openness and aptitude for making connections to how other expertise can contribute to
addressing complex problems. These results, while not definitive, offers an initial foray
into a domain of research that is underdeveloped both theoretically and
methodologically. The method selected (concept mapping) offers results that are
promising, but need to be interrogated in a more robust manner. Students acknowledge
that multiple expertise and expanding their understanding of the broader system
‘outside the lab’ (Student No. 34) is valuable for problem solving and that will translate
to future, professional success.
ESEM course: initial data acquisition and analysis
The short-course in January offered the research team a data set from eight
students that reflected their responses to a prompt for ‘interactional expertise’. The
limited number of participants and the manner in which the students responded to the
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prompt led to changes in the prompts for the following courses. The initial data did
demonstrate that students used the case study on park management in their post-tests,
while struggling to depict ‘interactional expertise’ in their pre-tests, for example see
Figure 1. This student responded to the prompt of, ‘interactional expertise’ by creating
separate concept maps for ‘expertise’ and ‘interaction’ in their pre-test. While in their
post-test they constructed a representation of park management that integrates
expertise from multiple expertise. The students’ concept maps did show an increased
number of nodes and connections (see Figure 1), while not significant (n=8), suggested
that such a rudimentary measure of additive learning would be valuable for the spring
courses. This suggests a greater understanding of the interconnections between
different knowledge domains.
Figure 1.
Table 1.
SocNano Course: Comparative Analysis of Prompts
In the SocNano course 30 participants completed two, separate pre and post
concept maps opposed to the one concept map constructed in all the other courses.
The two concept maps were preceded by different prompts: ‘express your expertise and
the expertise of others’ and the other was ‘diagram the National Nanotechnology
Initiative’. A paired t-test within individuals was performed to compare the pre-post
results between the students’ two different maps. This serves as a point of interrogation
for the influence of the prompt on the data produced. The students produced
statistically significant differences in pre-post tests for nodes and connections in the
‘diagram the National Nanotechnology Initiative’ concept maps, while there was no
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statistical difference between the numbers of nodes and connections between the
‘interactional expertise’ concept maps, see Table 2. Thus, we interpret this result in a
manner that the students gained an appreciation for multiple expertise in the domain of
nanotechnology and society, whilst not learning about interactional expertise as concept
in and of itself. This is not surprising, since the course attending to the multidisciplinary
nature of nanotechnology and society and the course material contained only one
lecture that addressed interactional expertise.
Table 2.
The quantitative data are supported by a participant’s interview reflection that
initially, they had ‘no confidence in [their] connections’, however, following the course’s
intervention they had a ‘stronger backbone in terms of the main connections and their
respective interactions.’ The student also reflected that their post-map was ‘more linear’
due to their increased knowledge of the NNI and how the organization was structured,
see Figure 2 below (Student, No. 18). Actually, the post map is more hierarchical, with
the Congress, the Office of Science and Technology Policy and funding agencies at the
top and links spreading out that eventually incorporate multiple fields of science at the
bottom. This shows how multiple stakeholders and expertises are necessary for shaping
nanotechnology policy.
Figure 2.
One student noted that they had left out key details in the pre map, and that is
supported by the fact that less expertises are shown in Figure 3. and fewer references
to the NNI were made. The student reflected on their pre-test, ‘I would say my
understanding was vague. I could theorize how the NNI worked, but could not provide
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details’ (Student No. 12). In their post-test concept map the student expressed that, ‘my
thinking about the topic may be more detailed, or accurate. I also find it to be influenced
by the NNI sim. experience, and I left out ideas from my initial concept map that I should
have included’ (Student No. 12). The concept map that this particular student
generated depicted their own expertise in the pre-test, while in the post-test the map
reflected the structure of the NNI and how different stakeholders share knowledge and
resources.
TSS course: a case study on GMOs
Prior to the case study, students did not consider broader governance issues and
the expertise that is needed to address complex issues, such as GMOs. After the
course, they expressed more aspects of the systems and levels of governance, and
understand the regulatory dynamics and levels associated with the issue at hand. This
is demonstrated in an average increase in nodes by 1.9 (p<0.001) and connections by
2.1 (p<0.001), shown in Tables 3 and 4 respectively.
The case study cultivated an appreciation for and helped them learn how to
navigate ‘multiple perspectives’ and ‘conflicting data between knowledge domains’
(Student No. 50). The student reflected that they ‘are prone to look at things from a
scientific point of view, such as biotech or environment. [...] I don’t always think about
how it applies to world hunger, or society, or government regulations - seeing the
different sides of that, and keeping that in mind is a useful perspective,’ and something
they ‘had not thought about before’ (Student No. 50). The student discussed that in
their pre-test concept map, see Figure 3, where they had only focused on ‘how to get
[GMOs] labeled,’ however, they noted that their post-test concept map integrates
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multiple disciplinary domains and recognizes that an integrated perspective was
necessary: ‘There’s scientific information that needs to be considered in labeling, [in
addition to] governing [and] stakeholder information that needs to be included when
labeling’ (Student No. 50). It should be highlighted that in Student No. 50’s post-
concept map, GMOs are in the center, with multiple stakeholders influencing the
scientists who design GMOs. Another student found the ‘knowledge gained’ and a
‘better understanding’ of the multiple knowledge domains represented in the case study
to be the most valuable outcome of the experience (Student No. 51).
Figure 3.
One student reflected on the enhanced, holistic view they developed through the
case study. They stated that their initial concept map (and overall personal view) on
GMOs was that they were ‘dangerous to eat,’ noting that after the case study their
understanding shifted: ‘I don’t really believe that anymore’ (Student No. 54). Their
primary concern shifted to the impact on ‘society as a whole’ in particular in relation to
implications for crop diversity. The student also felt better prepared to speak to multiple
facets of the broader system, including technical, policy, and social issues. They felt that
this change was illustrated in their pre and post concept maps, see Figure 4. ‘I’m more
prepared to [speak about them] - I can section it up into different categories - the policy
and the scientific, how they’re made’ (Student No. 54). Again, Student No. 54’s map
puts GMOs at the center, showing that stakeholders and policy makers shape the
development process, not just the impacts after the technology is on the market.
Figure 4.
Cumulative results across the two campuses
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Students demonstrated an acquisition of ‘T-shaped’ expertise after taking each of
the three STS courses based on the three key indicators. First, students expressed a
greater awareness for the boundaries of their own expertise, i.e. this reinforces the
vertical dimension of the ‘T’. This finding is supported by evidence from statements on
‘core expertise’ that report a narrower set of expertise as part of their core knowledge by
-1.81 categories (p<0.001) in pre-post testing when the results from the separate
classes are analyzed cumulatively, see Table 5. Furthermore, students depicted an
enhanced understanding of the complexity of problems in pre-post tests by creating
more nodes on an average of 1.87 per concept map (p<0.001), while making 3.58 more
connections (p<0.001), see Tables 3 and 4. This suggests that students broadened
their understanding of the richness and complexity of the concept by making more
connections between nodes. The interview data highlights this broadened
understanding, as one participant reflected that their understanding of the broader
system being studied, as illustrated in their pre-concept map was ‘vague,’ but in the
post-concept map articulated his thinking as being more ‘detailed’ and ‘accurate’
(Student No. 12). The concept maps reflect a quantitative measure of ‘more’
knowledge, which does not necessarily mean ‘better’ knowledge, which is why the
structure of the maps and the interview data on the other hand capture data on how the
student gain a ‘better’ understanding of the broader aspects and greater confidence in
their own core expertise.
Table 3.
Table 4.
Table 5.
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Discussion and concluding points
This paper explored how university students demonstrate an acquisition of ‘T-
shaped’ expertise by both sharpening an understanding of their own core expertise,
while making more connections to other expertise. This suggests that an early
indication for T-shaped professionals can be integrated into STEM education curricula.
Current logical models assert that these individuals will be more ‘responsible’ innovators
as they possess both a deeper and broader understanding of the complex,
interconnected ‘wicked problems’ facing our society (Owen, Macnaugten & Stilgoe,
2013). The framework of responsible innovation demands that scientists and engineers
engage with diverse stakeholders and account for their knowledge in technoscientific
decision-making. Engagements between scientists, engineers and diverse
stakeholders can be orchestrated in trading zones where shared goals can support
collaborative problem-solving efforts. In this way T-shaped expertise, might be
considered as a set of capacities that allows integration of one’s own knowledge with
others’ knowledge. Educators and employers alike must engage in a continued
dialogue about ‘T-shaped’ expertise and build additional assessment tools that detect
differences between these ‘responsible’ innovators with T-shaped expertise and
persons with only traditional disciplinary knowledge sets at their disposal.
Towards a theory of acquisition of T-shaped expertise
Despite these limitations and needs for continued investigation, we offer an initial
theory of acquisition of ‘T-shaped’ competency comprised of three dimensions involved
in the mastery of facilitation across expertise: attitude, aptitude, and ability - three areas
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that are informed by our overarching conceptual framework comprised of trading zones,
interactional expertise, socio-technical integration, and engagement.
Attitude: For individuals to be open to the development of ‘T-shaped’
competency, they need to be willing to engage deeply with person(s) from another
disciplinary expertise, and with individuals who might not traditionally be viewed as
‘experts’ such as stakeholders with experiential knowledge. Individuals without such an
attitude readily identify other expertise as incommensurate with their own and decide to
remain in their comfort zone, not recognizing the value in working through seeming
incommensurabilities between expertise and stakeholder perspectives. Cultivating an
attitude of openness is an important balance to maintain, especially as persons initially
develop deep disciplinary expertise. Creating environments that cultivate a safe space
to explore the connections between knowledge domains in ‘low stakes’ settings where
failure can be managed and defensiveness confronted is important to cultivate an
openness to diverse perspectives.
Aptitude: An individual must be able to cultivate connections to other expertises.
Aptitude can be demonstrated through showing interest, listening, and asking questions.
Conley (2011) demonstrated an aptitude in the laboratory by being able to learn critical
laboratory tasks like polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis. An aptitude for making
connections between disciplinary knowledge means being willing (attitude) to ask
‘dumb’ questions, which are quickly transformed into insightful, probing questions that
interrogate the intersections and overlaps between the person’s own expertise and that
of another. Here, an aptitude to learn the language of another discipline, in order to
communicate is an essential component of aptitude.
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Ability: Skills are developed that can bridge disciplinary languages and to work
towards a shared set of terms consisting of vocabulary that can be used by the group to
tackle an interdisciplinary challenge. T-shaped professionals use language to make the
connections between different expertise readily apparent to everyone working on a
shared problem. This can involve restating phrases to generate shared understanding.
An ability to share knowledge across disciplinary boundaries can manifest in visual
mapping techniques, shared problem definitions and envisioned solutions. An ability to
learn, develop and share knowledge across disciplinary boundaries is of utmost
importance.
Mastery of facilitation: The bringing together of these three dimensions results in
a person with mastery in facilitation that affords them a greater ability to collaborate with
persons that possess different expertise to address collective action problems. This
culmination of an attitude (willingness), aptitude (predisposition to learn), and ability
(skills development) contributes to a person learning diverse languages and bridging
divides between communities with disciplinary, epistemic, and/or ontological
incongruences.
This competency is akin to ‘interpersonal’ competency for sustainability science
as a means to transcend science-society divides (Wiek et al 2011; Wiek et al 2015).
Yet, what the ‘T-shaped’ model brings to the fore is the grounding in a disciplinary
knowledge domain as a core component of that individual’s competence. This stands in
contrast to skills rooted in conflict management and negotiation tactics, which entails
mastery of facilitation skills, while ‘T-shaped’ competency also demands an articulation
of a deep expertise along with an ability to make meaningful connections to other forms
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of expertise (including contributory expertise). To assess these four levels, our project
will need to be reconfigured in future iterations to independently assess attitude
(perceptions); ability (capacity to learn); skill (functional application of knowledge); and
efficacy to facilitate collaboration (efficacy in ‘real-world’ cases).
Methodological reflections
In regards to the assessment methodology, it is clear that the ‘prompt’ for the
concept is impactful on the student’s maps, as shown in the differences in the results
from the societal dimensions of nanotechnology case study. Other limitations are
centered around the restricted timeframe of the case study interventions, with one
consideration being the transferability of the ‘T-shaped’ skills and sensibilities cultivated
in a single course, rather than the evaluation of the full curriculum. Additionally,
longitudinal research is needed to assess the extent to which students carry the
learning experience and skillset with them into future endeavors, such as future classes
and their professions after graduation. Related to considerations regarding long term
outcomes, the assessment methodology could be further enhanced by integrating
specific prompts on the reflection worksheets and in the semi-structured interviews
related to student’s perspectives regarding the utility of T-shaped learning as connected
to their professional and career goals. Also, pre and post comparisons that capture a
greater number of participants might yield more robust, generalizable results, however,
there is a trade-off: these quantitative results cannot be interpreted without solid
qualitative data. The post map interviews described here are a good idea, but an even
better methodology would be protocol analysis, in which the students talk aloud and are
recorded as they are drawing their maps (Ericsson and Simon 1984).
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Pedagogical and institutional reflections
The curriculum at both JMU and UVA is designed to enrich the undergraduate
education in engineering and science with courses that address the intersections of
science, technology, and society. At face value, these courses seem to be a ‘natural’ fit
to support the horizontal bar of the ‘T’, yet our data suggests that these courses also
engage students in reflection activities about their own core expertise that comprises
the vertical bar. This is promising, but certainly neither conclusive, nor sufficient. As
instructors and scholars, we have been considering how these sensibilities are
cultivated within our students. What types of interdisciplinary experiences are most
beneficial to broaden their appreciation for other knowledge domains, while building
knowledge and skills in their own core expertise? To what extent is failure a positive
learning experience when confronted by seemingly incommensurate knowledge
systems? And how can discomfort of moving beyond one’s established knowledge
sphere become more of a learning experience? Do attributes of T-shaped professionals
translate directly to leadership and management skills or is that a bridge too far?
The curriculum structures recurrent interactions between the STS faculty and
engineering and science students at both institutions. This offers us opportunities for
experimentation across time and during different phases of the undergraduate
experience from first year students to their culminating undergraduate experiences and
beyond into their graduate work. The acquisition of T-shaped expertise and an ability to
interact with persons from other expertise need not be the exclusive concern of STS
scholars, but might yet become the practice of engineers and scientists working on
complex ‘wicked problems’.
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Suggestions for future research
In addition to further refining the assessment methodology and our pedagogical
approach, we seek to continue interrogating the relationship between the nascent
concept of T-shaped expertise and the rich body of scholarship on interactional
expertise. In what sense is interactional expertise essential to T-shaped expertise?
Interactional expertise demands mastery of the language of another discipline by deep
immersion in a community, and the current way of assessing interactional expertise is
via a Turing test in which an expert directs questions at an expert and an interactional
expert in order to tell which is which. Complete knowledge of the language of an
expertise may not be a prerequisite for T-shapes. Experts in a familiar context know
immediately what to do to solve a problem and often have trouble explaining the
process they used because their problem representation--often a mental model of the
situation (Gorman 1992)--cued the right approach almost instantly. When an expert
does explain this kind of immediate recognition of a problem and solution, it often relies
on the fact that episodic memory is reconstructive (Neisser 1982). Experts can produce
plausible stories about how they solved problems that fit the paradigmatic view.
Concept maps reveal the concepts and associations that form an expert’s view of
her or his expertise. These maps are constructions, made ‘on the fly’ in response to a
prompt. To improve our methodology, we plan to use protocol analysis (Ericsson and
Simon 1984) in our next study of the development of T-shaped expertise in the
classroom. Protocol analysis requires that the student talk aloud as she or he is
building her/his concept map, so the researcher can hear the rationale for decisions
about what to put on the map and how the student links and builds upon concepts. This
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methodology requires a researcher to work with a participant one-on-one, prompting
them to continue to say whatever comes into their mind as they build their maps. The
session is recorded and transcribed in a way that preserves the linkage between
utterances and actions on the map. Ideally, we would do this exercise at the beginning
of the semester, somewhere about halfway through, and at the end. The results should
help us see the development of interactional and T-shaped expertise, and whether there
is any meaningful difference between them.
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References
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Tables with Captions
Nodes
Connections
Student No.
Pre-test
Post-test
Pre-test
Post-test
1
10
12
12
37
2
9
9
9
11
3
13
17
17
29
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18
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25
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11
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23
Total (n=8)
11.6
12.2
12.3
21.0
Table 1. Data table from ESEM course with results from all students shown and totals,
means for nodes and connections. Four students had more nodes on the post than the
pre, 3 had fewer and one did not change. On connections, seven of the eight had more
nodes, and the differences were greater. A t-test revealed no significant differences,
but the point of this small pilot was to look closely at the data (see Discussion, below).
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Prompts
Nodes
Connections
IE
(n=30)
Pre-test mean: 13.5
Pre-test mean: 16.5
Post-test mean: 13.1
Post-test mean: 16.3
Difference: Not significant
Difference: Not significant
NNI
(n=30)
Pre-test mean: 9.7
Pre-test mean: 12.3
Post-test mean: 11.8
Post-test mean: 15.9
Difference: Significant, p<0.05
Difference: Significant, p<0.01
Table 2. Paired t-tests for differences in means for nodes and connections between the
two different prompts. Note: IE = Interactional expertise; NNI = National
Nanotechnology Initiative.
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N
Mean nodes
pre-test
Mean nodes:
post-test
Significance
ESEM (UVA)
8
11.6
12.2
No difference
SocNano (UVA)
30
9.7
11.8
p<0.05
TSS (JMU)
30
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16.2
p<0.05
Cumulative
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13.8
p<0.001
Table 3. The mean nodes for each course are reported, along with the level of
significance in difference of means between pre-post tests.
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N
Mean
connections:
pre-test
Mean
connections:
post-test
Significance
ESEM (UVA)
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21.0
No difference
SocNano (UVA)
30
12.3
15.9
p<0.01
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30
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18.0
p<0.05
Cumulative
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17.4
p<0.001
Table 4. The mean connections for each course are reported, along with the level of
significance in difference of means between pre-post tests.
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Mean core
expertise: pre-
test
Mean core
expertise: post-
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Significance
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8
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No difference
SocNano (UVA)
30
7.5
6.4
p<0.05
TSS (JMU)
30
8.1
5.4
p<0.001
Cumulative
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7.5
5.8
p<0.001
Table 5. The mean number of core expertise expressed by students in each course are
reported, along with the significance in means between pre-post tests.
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Figure Captions
Figure 1. Concept map from Student 2 in ESEM course.
Figure 2. Concept map from SocNano course from Student No. 18. Pre-test on left and
post-test on right-side.
Figure 3. Concept maps generated by Student No. 50 in the TSS course. Pre-test (top)
and post-test (below).
Figure 4. Concept maps generated by Student No. 54 in the TSS course. Pre-test (left)
and post-test (right).
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... This awareness is implied, such as those regarding the expectations and convictions about the value of collaboration as well as the perceived similarities and differences between professionals. By being aware and able to challenge and alter these assumptions, a greater acceptance of the differences may result due to a more congruent belief system that connects rather than separates professional practices [92,105,114,115]. ...
... Educational redesign. Essential in educational redesign is the futureproofing of curricula by adopting competency frameworks, such as that of the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC), so that learners are socialized to become T-shaped professionals capable and confident in their capabilities of collaborating with others [114,133]. In addition, we reiterate that developing an IPI requires the consolidation of experiences and the construction of belief systems based on evidence and reason [181]. ...
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Interprofessional identity (IPI) development is considered essential in reducing incongruency and improving interprofessional collaboration. However, noticeable differences in conceptualizations are being put forward in the literature, hindering interpretation of research findings and translation into practice. Therefore, a Concept Analysis and Critical Interpretative Synthesis of empirical research articles were conducted to explore the assumptions and conceptions of IPI. Independent literature screening by two researchers led to the inclusion and extraction of 39 out of 1334 articles. Through critical analysis, higher order themes were constructed and translated to a synthesizing argument and a conceptual framework depicting what constitutes IPI (attributes), the boundary conditions (antecedents) and the outcomes (consequences) of its development. The attributes refer to both IPI’s structural properties and the core beliefs indicative of an interprofessional orientation. The antecedents inform us on the importance of IPI-fitting constructivist learning environments and intergroup leadership in enabling its development. This development may lead to several consequences with regard to professional wellbeing, team effectiveness and the quintuple aim. Given the educational orientation of this study, ways for facilitating and assessing the development of IPI among learners across the professional continuum have been proposed, although empirical research is needed to further validate links and mediating and moderating variables.
... The genesis of the T-shaped paradigm may be traced to a study on scientists turning managers that Johnston conducted in 1978 (Conley, Foley, Gorman, Denham, & Coleman, 2017). The model envisioned the ideal professional as someone who is able to apply their expertise across different situations (broad skills) and possess functional disciplinary skills that are concentrated on their chosen field (deep skills) (Conley et al., 2017). ...
... The genesis of the T-shaped paradigm may be traced to a study on scientists turning managers that Johnston conducted in 1978 (Conley, Foley, Gorman, Denham, & Coleman, 2017). The model envisioned the ideal professional as someone who is able to apply their expertise across different situations (broad skills) and possess functional disciplinary skills that are concentrated on their chosen field (deep skills) (Conley et al., 2017). The concept gained more prominence recently among information and technology (IT) schools particularly in America such as Georgia Institute of Technology (GeorgiaTech). ...
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This mixed method study investigated the impact of a T-shaped model in the teaching of a course that is aligned with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) using a project-based approach in an online context. Manifestations of knowledge and metacognitive/socioemotional skills were examined. In particular, the use of the proposed teaching paradigm tested the development of cognitive, interpersonal, and intrapersonal competencies. After the completion of each of the nine tasks, respondents (n=113) representing all students enrolled in Media and Information Literacy (MIL) rated their development of the applicable skillsets via a Likert Scale survey. Activities involving all three T-shaped skillsets scored high, indicating significant enhancement of skills. All the projects did not test significantly in the ANOVA single-factor analysis, recording p-values of more than 0.05, suggesting that the T-shaped skills were equally engaged and capacitated. Projects involving two competencies scored high as well and tested negatively using ANOVA (p = >0.05). Triangulation through interviews of 10 students using purposive sampling corroborated the findings. Results point to the need to integrate T-shaped skills in education. A T-shaped model in the teaching of STEM and humanities subjects is presented. This research delved on intentional integration of skills development in MIL, one of the core subjects in Philippine senior high schools (SHS) in response to employability issue among SHS and college graduat¬es within the confines of a junior college in Pasig City, Metro Manila. Finally, the entire manuscript is original and is a result of an experiment and analysis of available literature.
... However, this adaptability must be distinguished from the notion of "flexperts", namely persons who frequently shift back and forth amongst different domains and still show superior performance in each of these domains (Frie et al., 2018, p. 5). T-shaped expertise emphasizes individuals having a broad, general expertise across domains and a high level of expertise in one domain (Conley et al., 2017). ...
... Regarding the concepts of T-shaped expertise and flexperts, types 1, 2, and 4 are rather uneventful. All three types presumably develop a competency profile that is similar to T-shaped expertise (Conley et al., 2017;Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1986, p. 20), while type 2 has to adapt to a few new tasks. Furthermore, type 2 does not leave his or her domain and the already gained experiences in the domain might additionally supplement expertise development in the new tasks (Barnett & Koslowski, 1997;e.g., Boshuizen et al., 2020). ...
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Expertise is featured by continued high performance in a particular domain. Expertise research has primarily focused on absolute expertise in structured domains such as chess and emphasized the significance of deliberate practice for expertise development. We investigated the development of relative expertise in commercial domains as part of ill-structured domains. Due to the ill-structuredness and acknowledging the use of the term expert in organizational practice, we developed a taxonomy to distinguish between four types of experts in the broader sense (relative expert, managerial relative expert, evolved specialist, and native specialist). Eighteen peer-nominated individuals from business-to-business sales departments from four German organizations participated in our interview study. A content analysis was applied using both deductive and inductive categorizations. The interview data clearly corresponds to the concept of progressive problem solving rather than to the concept of deliberate practice. Almost all our respondents referred to either “being thrown in at the deep end” by others (assigned complex tasks) or “jumping in at the deep end” of one’s own accord (self- selected complex tasks). However, the interview partners described features of deliberate practice for novices. In this very early stage of expertise development, more experienced colleagues structure parts of the ill-structured domain and enable deliberate practice while for advanced beginners and later stages expert development rather resembles progressive problem solving. Our results provide implications on how to foster expertise development in ill-structured domains. Possible limitations arise from the small sample, the peer-nomination process, and the retrospective nature of interview data.
... Problem solving deserves special attention as an important skill of this century (Conley et al. 2017). Solving complex problems is especially important in design and design research, including a current trend in this-human-computer interaction. ...
... Yet, trends in current societies, especially growing need to solve complex problems, require wide competences and conflict with narrow specializations. A new concept 'T-shaped' person comprises both breadth (not deep) expertise, enabling cooperation with specialist in other fields, and deep expertise in a specific narrow field (Conley et al. 2017). Recent literature speaks even about 'Π-shaped' and 'M-shaped' persons, having two 'legs'-deep knowledge in different fields (Ribes 2018). ...
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This paper scrutinizes several interrelated notions that influence social science research and suggests unconventional alternatives to move forward. The reasoning is based on the claim that most researchers, as well as research institutions, are prisoners of the past. Traditions in academia foster us to repetitiveness in our efforts. Our main contention is that we need to rethink research approaches in the present, supposedly “liquid” society. One way to break out of the imprisonment is to let the empirical world speak, to foster an open mind, and to attempt to get rid of inhibiting experiences. Trying to make sense of the present world is a challenge for most due to the path-dependent behavior we have as researchers in terms of world views, research approaches, and theories. Our analysis and discussion revealed that moving toward the desired future is possible by combining of modern notions like “chunking” and “jazzing” (improvisation) and agility. We believe that this metaphorical discussion will show new ways of seeing familiar things and help researchers re-orientate in the contemporary world being open to alternative research approaches, not being afraid of improvising and being more agile.
... However, multi-disciplinarity in teams may exist in more than one mode. In one mode, lawyers may work effectively in multi-disciplinary teams by becoming "T-shaped" (Conley et al. 2017), that is, they have a deep knowledge of law and just enough knowledge of other non-legal disciplines to be able to communicate effectively with those non-legal experts; this is equivalent to connective professionalism (Noordegraaf 2020). In another mode, lawyers may embody multi-disciplinarity by becoming "lawyer-coders" or even "renaissance men", incorporating at least some of the new technical, business, and other non-legal skills within the knowledge base of the profession; this is equivalent to hybrid professionalism (Noordegraaf 2015). ...
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What is the impact of digital technology on professional work? This paper addresses this question by developing a theory on professional jurisdictional control, which we define as a profession’s power to maintain or shift from existing jurisdictional settlements in the face of external disturbances. Digital technology is a disturbance, and who ends up undertaking digital tasks depends on the nature of professional jurisdictional control. With protective jurisdictional control, the profession engages in full or subordinate jurisdiction, delegating new tasks to subordinate semiprofessionals. By contrast, with connective jurisdictional control, the profession prefers settlements by division of labor or advisory links, enabling equal-status professions to work together. Using a large and representative database of online job postings, we find evidence for this hypothesis. Empirically, we deploy three ways to gauge the nature of professional jurisdictional control: first, by comparing traditional law firms and alternative business structure firms in the UK; second, by contrasting the US (with protective jurisdictional control) and the UK; and third, by examining the legal sector (in which the legal profession dominates) and non-legal sectors. We also find that protective (connective) jurisdictional control is associated with lower (higher) pay premia for digital skills, consistent with theory. Our findings highlight the mediating role of professional jurisdictional control to inform the future of work debate.
... When dealing with real-life open-ended challenges, disciplinary boundaries become unclear, and asks for individuals with a depth and breadth of expertise (Conley et al. 2017). The T-shaped ...
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Increasingly higher education programs are made learner centred and flexible to face societal changes. Challenge-based learning (CBL) is an educational concept shaping these open and flexible programs. This article aims to articulate a framework for analysing CBL characteristics within and between study components in academic curricula. It contributes to a detailed conceptualisation of CBL and clarity on what CBL implementations consist of. The dimensions and indicators of the framework reflect points of attention for research and evaluation of CBL design and implementation. We argue for variety in CBL characteristics between study components or curricula. Furthermore, we point out how this conceptualisation of CBL opens for research into designing and teaching for multiple domains, and how it contributes to an identification of commonly agreed characteristics of CBL. Recent CBL projects are referenced as an illustration of the approach. The detailed conceptualisation informs debate and development in a nascent field of research. © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
... Develop, apply, promote, make decisions to advance sustainability by using viable, equitable, and inclusive solution processes, procedures, frameworks, schemes, etc. (Jegstad and Sinnes, 2015;Hull et al., 2016; FIGURE 5 | Percentage of sampled publications (n 272) that can be mapped onto the three emerging competencies Disciplinary competence: There is broad agreement that advancing sustainability transformations requires contentdependent competencies, e.g., on climate, water, energy, food, and international development (Dale and Newman, 2005;Demssie et al., 2019). Disciplinary specialties will be critical complements to the content-independent sustainability competencies, resulting in "t-", "pi" or "shield" shaped professional profiles (Uhlenbrook and de Jong, 2012;Conley et al., 2017;Pennington et al., 2020). ...
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Advancing transformations towards sustainability calls for change agents equipped with a new set of competencies. Such sustainability competencies have been articulated with multiplicity and ambiguity, which is counterproductive to joint and accelerated progress. A unified framework of sustainability learning objectives would provide guidance to students, educators, and administrators of sustainability programs. To this end, we carried out a systematic review of the relevant literature. After scanning thousands of publications, we identified over 270 peer-reviewed articles of highest relevance, spanning two decades. Despite appearance otherwise, we found that there is a high level of agreement among scholars over the sustainability competencies that students should be trained in. Expanding on the five key competencies, namely, systems-thinking, anticipatory, normative, strategic, and interpersonal competence, that have gained widespread use, this article synthesizes the new suggestions made over the past decade into a unified framework. It centers on 8 key competencies in sustainability (the 5 established and 3 emerging-intrapersonal, implementation, and integration competence), which are complemented by separate disciplinary, general, and other professional competencies. This comprehensive framework of key competencies in sustainability is applicable across disciplines and can guide faculty, students, and practitioners in their joint efforts to advance transformations towards sustainability.
... The key is to know about all competencies and their relationships and how they support the sustainability problem-solving processes (Brundiers et al., 2021, p. 20, Figure 2). This has been characterized elsewhere in the literature as T-Shaped (Conley et al., 2017;Uhlenbrook & de Jong, 2012), with knowledge of all the KCS and intense expertise on one or two dimensions. ...
Article
The world faces significant challenges that require transformative changes facilitated by Sustainability Change Agents (SCAs). Universities around the world have explicitly taken up the responsibility of developing in students the skills and knowledge (i.e., competencies) necessary to be successful SCAs. While there is clear convergence around planning competencies, intrapersonal and implementation competencies have recently emerged in the literature. These competencies will have to remain effective even in the face of adversity, yet too little is known about sources of motivation for SCAs and how motivation can be maintained despite these inevitable setbacks. Since the needed transformations will be collective processes, motivation to be a SCA needs to be understood in the social and realistic context in which they would be applied. This study sought to gain specific insights into: 1.) What motivates students to be SCAs? 2.) How do these SCAs maintain their motivation in the face of setbacks? 3.) What can higher education institutions (e.g., universities, colleges) do to better support the motivation of SCAs? In order to gain insights into these questions, 83 aspiring SCAs were surveyed and their responses analyzed using qualitative content analysis. For this group of SCAs, the key source of motivation evolved from a focus on nature, learning, and individual behavior to a more social view with a concern for structural change. Moreover, social networks and intrapersonal skills helped to restore students' motivation following setbacks. Despite being university students, the SCAs surveyed had already experienced significant setbacks and, largely without institutional support, learned strategies to overcome them and maintain their motivation. Motivation and the skills, knowledge, and experience of how to maintain the drive for positive change in the face of setbacks is crucial in order for SCAs to be capable of supporting the critically needed transformations, and universities must play their part in fostering the SCAs' capability.
Article
The modern world is becoming increasingly integrated, and disciplines are frequently collaborating with each other. Following this trend, clinical psychologists are also often working within multidisciplinary teams and in settings outside of traditional mental health. To be competent and effective in these contexts, clinical psychologists could benefit from skills outside of psychology. The current psychology training model provides depth of training in psychology but could be improved by providing the breadth of training required of modern clinical psychologists working in these contexts. Other disciplines, such as engineering, business, and social work, have improved their breadth of training through the adoption of the T-shaped model. This model of training allows individuals to simultaneously acquire the depth of knowledge required for their discipline and the breadth required to work effectively in multidisciplinary contexts. This article discusses areas in which clinical psychologists could benefit from broad training and recommendations to implement the T-shaped model.
Chapter
Increasing demand for STEM graduates and a competitive higher education sector have highlighted a critical need to safeguard the learner experience through the provision of accessible and curriculum-aligned support for learning. The anticipated and actual demand for STEM skills is underscored by the requirement for universities to ensure a sustainable pipeline of skilled, confident and job-ready graduates. However, when the focus is on the end-product (graduate employability), what then is the place and value in the learner experience of the “hard” skills, that is mastery of the discipline? A competitive higher education market, in conjunction with the widening participation agenda, has seen an increase in the number of students embarking on degrees in traditional STEM areas, as well as those where STEM concepts underpin their confidence within the discipline (e.g., Nursing, Education). Simultaneously, the move from prerequisites to assumed knowledge requirements for university courses has resulted in students being frequently underprepared for these courses. On this basis, it is essential that universities provide integrated and accessible support for all learners. In this chapter we outline Queensland University of Technology’s response to this issue. We discuss relevant contextual factors that have informed the iterative design and implementation of an institution-wide approach to support learning in STEM disciplines. This approach is grounded in the provision of curriculum-aligned, scaffolded support for learning delivered by STEM discipline experts in the co-curricular space.
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Traditional theories on classroom learning focus on fixed curriculum, static learning tools and believe learning is achieved through repetition and rote memorization. The instructor’s role in a traditional learning environment focuses on providing direction to the student versus facilitating learning. As the technology age becomes more prevalent in educational institutions, it is time to approach teaching and learning from a technological point of view. Due to the extensive and diverse technologies available to higher education institutions, many are considering and implementing initiatives to take advantage of the coverage and the return on investment features of these technologies. This adaptation often involves the use of multimedia and the transfer of course content over the Internet. A detailed look at applications on the Internet can identify multimedia items, such as animation, slideshows, announcements, blogging and even instant messaging, which can be implemented successfully in the college classroom. Multimedia, which uses the Internet as its transfer mechanism, should be a consideration when designing an effective and dynamic college classroom experience.
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This chapter discusses initiatives in the field of "Responsible Innovation" (RI) at different levels and some of their dynamics. Then it focuses on two types of intervention-oriented activities that concretely support and stimulate aspirations for RI/Responsible Research and Innovation" (RRI): socio-technical integration research (STIR) and constructive technology assessment (CTA). Finally, it discusses tensions in the concept and practices of RI/RRI, particularly in the light of its prospects for effectiveness and institutionalization.
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Responsible innovation requires that scientific and other expert practices be responsive to society. We take stock of various collaborative approaches to socio-technical integration that seek to broaden the societal contexts technical experts take into account during their routine activities. Part of a larger family of engaged scholarship that includes inter- and transdisciplinarity as well as stakeholder and public engagement, we distinguish collaborative socio-technical integration in terms of its proximity to and transformation of expert practices. We survey a variety of approaches that differ widely in terms of their integrative methods, conceptions of societal context, roles, and aspirations for intervention. Taking a handful of “communities of integration” as exemplars, we then provide a framework for comparing the forms, means, and ends of collaborative integration. We conclude by reflecting on some of the main features of, and tensions within, this developing arena of practical inquiry and engagement and what this suggests for integrative efforts aimed at responsible innovation.
Book
A proposal for a new framework for fostering collaborations across disciplines, addressing both theory and practical applications.
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