Transdisciplinary Skills Outlast Core Skills

Some time back, some posted to a LinkedIn forum I read that the jobs children today will hold in the future don’t exist yet, and my first thought was, “That’s why it’s more important to develop the core discipline skills as well as the transdisciplinary skills necessary to apply those core discipline skills down the road.”

I can already see the question forming in your head, “What’s a transdisciplinary skill?”

Let’s start with what you do know. Core skills are the disciplines that make up the core of a normal academic program: reading, writing, and math. (Depending on the state and district you’re in, science and social studies may also be part of this academic core.) They’re the isolated, architected study of various components of each discipline, theoretically preparing students to be well-grounded, well-rounded adults. (As we all know, it’s not really working out that way, at least not to the degree we wish it would.)

Transdisciplinary skills are skills that are applicable, despite what discipline you’re working with. In fact, you could roll the core disciplines into one big ball, and the transdisciplinary skills would give you the ability to not only navigate that big ball, but also organize, understand, and present the material extracted from the big ball. What’s funny is that we’re often taught them is isolated disciplinary contexts, but that’s just not where they belong or how they should be taught.

The major difference is that once we get beyond school, we tap into the core skills only as demanded by professional and social demands, which means if you’re in an industry that relies heavily on history and grammar, you’re more likely to lose track of your science and math background. If your industry requires history and science, math and reading skills tend to go out the window. We’re all used to making the excuse, “Yeah, I learned that back in school, but that was years ago. I don’t remember any of it now.” Then we laugh, like it’s okay to lose twelve years of our lives. We are clearly crazy.

Transdisciplinary skills, on the other hand, form the spine of our daily routines, both professionally and socially. They’re the skills we use when we need to clarify something, when we talk to each other, when we teach each other, when we’re faced by a conundrum. And we may or may not pick up the skills in our youth, where we should all probably be learning to use them more fully.

Which skills qualify as transdisciplinary skills? That’s a topic for another post. A whole series of them, actually. Stick around!

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2 thoughts on “Transdisciplinary Skills Outlast Core Skills

  1. Amen. I hope that “critical thinking” is going on your list of top-10 inter-disciplinary skills, along with its little sister “logic”… things that college freshmen too often come to university completely unprepared to do.

  2. I don’t have a Top 10 list, as such. I have a (long) list of non-discipline-specific skills. Both are on it, along with analysis, which I argue goes hand in hand with them.

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