Toward an Analytic Framework of Interdisciplinary Reasoning and Communication (IRC) Processes in Science

Ji Shen, Shannon Sung, Dongmei Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Students need to think and work across disciplinary boundaries in the twenty-first century. However, it is unclear what interdisciplinary thinking means and how to analyze interdisciplinary interactions in teamwork. In this paper, drawing on multiple theoretical perspectives and empirical analysis of discourse contents, we formulate a theoretical framework that helps analyze interdisciplinary reasoning and communication (IRC) processes in interdisciplinary collaboration. Specifically, we propose four interrelated IRC processes—integration, translation, transfer, and transformation, and develop a corresponding analytic framework. We apply the framework to analyze two meetings of a project that aims to develop interdisciplinary science assessment items. The results illustrate that the framework can help interpret the interdisciplinary meeting dynamics and patterns. Our coding process and results also suggest that these IRC processes can be further examined in terms of interconnected sub-processes. We also discuss the implications of using the framework in conceptualizing, practicing, and researching interdisciplinary learning and teaching in science education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2809-2835
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number17
StatePublished - Nov 22 2015


  • Integration
  • Interdisciplinary knowledge management
  • Interdisciplinary reasoning and communication (IRC)
  • Transfer
  • Transformation
  • Translation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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