Pathways for assessing interdisciplinarity: A systematic review


In many sectors and in many respects, interdisciplinarity has made progress in recent decades, but less so when it comes to evaluating interdisciplinary work. Challenges remain, especially regarding what counts as ‘good’ interdisciplinarity. While previous reviews describe broad trends contributing to these challenges, high-level observations are less suited to: (1) pinpointing underlying sources of persistent evaluative issues, (2) capturing less frequent counterexamples and emerging trends, and (3) providing practical guidance for moving the field forward. This article presents a novel approach for excavating and analyzing assessment designs within and across a wide range of published studies. It is the first study to structure its review of interdisciplinary evaluation around the basics of evaluation theory, creating a simplified model of assessment design choices called an assessment pathway. It further stands alone as an extensive systematic review of the interdisciplinary literature uniquely placed within the context of evaluation, encompassing 20 years, 142 studies, 1,006 assessment pathways, and 19,114 data points. Results show that while interdisciplinary assessments to date excel at variation, only 12% of identified pathways contain the minimum elements required to reach an evaluative judgment. Increased attention to evaluation theory can catalyze progress and provide structure and shared language to a highly varied domain. Readers can visually explore the full dataset online and download it from Harvard’s Dataverse.

Publication Type
Journal Article
Bethany K Laursen
Kelly J Anderson
Research Evaluation

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