IDL Planning Meeting
Blue sky thinking
Kara Hood

IDL Planning Meeting

2019, Nov 05    

Professor Colin Graham has been driving recent initiatives in the development of interdisciplinary learning (IDL). He organised a gathering of interested people at the RSE to consider the establishment of an IDL Forum whereby practitioners could share ideas and have a conversation about how to implement IDL in schools.

I was privileged to have been invited in part because of my involvement in initial teacher education at Edinburgh, but also because I have experience in setting up and operating professional community spaces in education1.

After introductions, Colin outlined the scope of support being made available by the RSE in bringing people together to progress the IDL forum. The elements needed were articulated as a platform, and people to moderate it. Scott Bryce2 shared his perspective of the establishment of science teacher networks in Scotland, stressing the need for a few moderators to volunteer from the community.

Stuart Nicol talked about Open Education Resources (OER) and TES Connect for resource storage, and the requirement to use open licences like Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 in these spaces. As well as advising on matters like turnover of people in running facilities such as are proposed, Stuart identified the three elements of what is being aimed for: a front end or web interface for users; resources storage and curation; and a forum space for dialogue and support for the community. These three need not be connected to each other except through hyperlinks.

The rest of the meeting discussed questions around IDL and what it is; examples of good practice3; and some of the expectations that might be met in bringing together practitioners in IDL to support each other, share ideas and promote wider implementation of interdisciplinary teaching and learning in our schools. I have agreed to continue to be involved with this project and advise where I can. First actions seem to be establishment of the forum and getting a discussion going.

The IDL Forum

I set up the IDL forum after meeting with Stuart and Colin in December. We settled on the University of Edinburgh’s Mailing List Service which operates using a hybrid suite based on Sympa. The List archive is public. At the end of 2019, we are setting up a pilot group to poke at the forum and seed a discussion or two, with perhaps a more open launch early in 2020.


  1. e.g., SPTR for physics teachers. 

  2. SYNAPSE and STRONTIUM are the networks for Biology and Chemistry teachers in Scotland, established by Scott. He acknowledged, once prompted, that these came on the back of and with support from sptr, SPUTNIK and the physics community, which had established communities since 2004. SYNAPSE and STRONTIUM make use of Google Groups for forums and GDrive for resources storage, with the attendant problems of Local Authority filtering and data security. 

  3. e.g. Daydream Believers