The New Practitioner - Transcending Disciplinary Boundaries

Zoltán Baracskai / Pallas Athéné Domus Animae Foundation, Budapest, Hungary, Budapest, Hungary
Viktor Dörfler / Department: Management Science, University of Strathclyde Business School, Glasgow, UK
Judit Ágnes Kádár / Eszterházy University, Eger, Hungary and Central Bank of Hungary, Hungary


In this opinion paper we introduce a school concept at doctoral level aimed at practitioners, who wish to stay in their respective areas of work. The rationale behind this school concept is that in Hungary, where the implementation of this school concept is currently in progress, gaining a PhD automatically means becoming an academic. However, there is a significant demand amongst high-performing practitioners, who are not inclined to become academics, for further learning opportunities at the highest level. They are our target market. We also wish to respond to one of the challenges the academia nowadays is globally facing, namely to maintaining the highest scholarly standard while achieving high relevance for practice. The school concept that can adequately engage with both of these problems is naturally a work-based one. Thus what we outline here is a professional doctoral school concept. We frame this new school concept based on three principles: Popper’s tentative problem solving process, Nicolescu’s method of transdisciplinarity, and Bourdieu’s approach to reflexivity. From these three principles we have synthesised a transdisciplinary tentative process of creative problem solving, which is both reflexive and reflective. We bring this process into the foreground and build a knowledge landscape in the background. The taught components (content) of the knowledge landscape are delivered by the greatest minds of the involved disciplines in the form of high-level meta-knowledge. Since there are two focal dimensions of the content, we label it bifocal. The curious practitioners, who are also passionate learners, will make their journey through the professional doctoral school, following their own transdisciplinary tentative processes of creative problem solving in this bifocal knowledge landscape composed of taught components and additional ones that are to be discovered or created in the community of New Alexandrians.

Keywords: Transdisciplinarity, Tentative Problem Solving, Reflexivity, Meta-Knowledge


Our aim in this opinion paper is to introduce a new school concept which is currently in the process of implementation in Hungary. This transdisciplinary professional doctoral school (TPDS) concept is based on three principles: (1) Popper’s (1974) tentative problem solving process, (2) Nicolescu’s (2010) method of transdisciplinarity, and (3) Bourdieu’s (2004) approach to reflexivity. The purpose of the TPDS is to offer a learning opportunity at the highest level for practitioners who want to remain in their respective professional fields but are curious, want to better themselves and their performance, and are thirsty not only for knowledge but also for the process of learning. We neither claim that that the TPDS concept is the only way to design such teaching-learning process, nor we claim that it is the best one. However, we believe that it is a meaningful one, a viable one, and we will soon have an instance of implementation, which can serve the purpose of illustration and further examination. What we wish to achieve in this paper is to offer a sound argument of why the TPDS concept is designed the way it is, and invite curious questions that will help us clarify our own thinking, welcome constructive critiques that will help us improve the presented school concept, and stimulate further exciting debates that will help us all develop a better and better education in the world work-based learning.

Without doubt the practitioners who come to the TPDS will be ‘Shallows’. Nicolas Carr (2011) defines Shallows with their lack of focused attention over an extended period of time. Shallow, however, in this sense does not necessarily mean ignorant, since it is possible to have shallow knowledge in a very wide area. Applying a simple metaphor, while shallow water in a kitchen sink does mean small amount of water, the shallow water of ocean size can still be a great deal of water. These practitioners can make use of the latest achievements in the disciplines in which they were originally educated and/or which is central to their work (henceforth we call these the native disciplines of the learners). However, there are refresher courses (often in the form of Continuous Professional Development, CPD) covering this need in the educational market. These practitioners could also use knowledge from disciplines other than their native disciplines (henceforth we call these adjunct disciplines), but they cannot be educated from the basics in the adjunct disciplines, since it would take too long, and they do not need the basics of the adjunct disciplines to become better at what they do. The TPDS offers something new that we believe can be an attractive additional avenue rather than a substitute for the already existing forms of post-experiential education. The essence of the idea is that the learners could improve themselves and their performance in their native disciplines by receiving carefully designed taught components from a variety of adjunct disciplines. These taught components are high-level concepts that include some of the fundamental results of a discipline and, like a hologram, in a sense they contain the whole discipline in a nutshell. Such concepts we call meta-concepts, and this type of knowledge we call meta-knowledge. Following Prusak and Davenport (2003), we believe that the gurus of the various disciplines are capable of enabling us to access and acquire such meta-knowledge. To make our case, we first outline one of the educational challenges today, to which we aim to respond with the TPDS concept. Then we briefly explain the three principles of the TPDS concept and how they together make a framework in which the TPDS concept can be developed and examined.

Then we outline the taught components that the learners are presented with. Here we do not include the detailed description of the particular topics, how they were chosen, who is delivering them, we have dealt with these questions elsewhere (see Baracskai, Velencei, Dörfler, & Szendrey, 2011), we only aim at a high-level description of this ‘content landscape’. Then we provide a generic description of how we envisage the journey of the learners in the designed content landscape. Finally, we make some concluding remarks about how the TPDS concept is different, perhaps even unusual in the current educational context.