Antecedents, Processes, and Outcomes of an Interdisciplinary, Conference/Collaboration: A comparative Study of Three Interdisciplinary Working Groups
ere is a growing recognition of the need for interdisciplinarity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The purpose of the present study is to identify antecedents, processes, and outcomes of an interdisciplinary, collaborative conference and ongoing collaboration. The Breaking Boundaries in STEM education conference was developed with multiple goals, including fostering collaborative interdisciplinary scientific writing for publication among teacher-scholars who participated in one of three interdisciplinary working groups. One hundred teacher-scholars with interest in STEM education participated in the conference. A comparative study of three working groups from the conference was conducted using a triangulation of qualitative and quantitative methods. Surveys and behavioral observations were completed at the conference, and phone interviews with attendees were conducted 3-4 months later. Groups varied in their readiness to collaborate. Several themes emerged that might explain why one group was highly productive, one group was moderately productive, and one group was not productive at completing publications after the conference. Groups with a narrower disciplinary span, stronger leadership presence, a paper champion, motivated leader, and a leader with a strong recent history of publishing on the topic, were more ready to collaborate, and they experienced faster, smoother completion of publications. Further research and more passage of time, such as a few years, is needed to determine the quantity, quality, span of disciplinarity, novelty, and generativity of the publications over time. The generalizability of these themes to other interdisciplinary collaborative studies is briefly discussed.