Seeing the whole: innovation in learning

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ashley Stewart, student blogger at Congress 2015

Innovation in learning was the topic of His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada’s Big Thinking lecture at Congress 2015. Focusing on improving the way we learn by drawing on all areas of research, His Excellency called on his audience to embrace different perspectives and work together across disciplinary boundaries.

In this era of complex research problems, multi-disciplinary research should be common, if not the norm. Sharing ideas across disciplines will help us appreciate the multifaceted nature of any given problem. Living in a time of rapid change and a communication revolution, we are learning new ways of thinking that used to be unimaginable. Building on success with bold and creative thinking, we can continue to improve on how we learn.

The idea that every student has the opportunity to study or work abroad, or even in another province or territory, is an approach to learning that opens our view to different worldviews. It provides an opportunity where we learn to become more tolerant and interested in differences and change; we become wiser and don’t leap to conclusions as easily; we also enhance our natural curiosity of the world. The knowledge gained from others contributes to your research as you begin to see the world in different ways.

The Governor General tied together the main themes of his talk with five challenges for everyone:

  • Recognize the critical importance of integrating knowledge and working across disciplines;
  • Take advantage of new technologies to talk to each other across professional and national languages and move past our jargon;
  • Find ways to bring people together around knowledge;
  • Take what works from other disciplines and apply that knowledge to your own; and
  • Celebrate Canadian excellence both within the country and globally.

Finally, His Excellency called on all Canadians “to help us improve the way we learn.” The social sciences and humanities should embrace challenges and engage with other disciplines, learn from each other and build on the good work we each do in our respective fields. 

Following the Governor General’s talk, a panel of three distinguished respondents provided commentary: Dr. Sara Diamond, Dr. Alejandro Adem and Dr. Miao Song. Three key words that emerged in this discussion were: interdisciplinary, innovative, and international. Everyone brings a different perspective to his or her research and sharing knowledge between the different disciplines and across borders will contribute in new and unexpected ways to the way we learn.

You can read the transcript of the Governor General’s address here.

Photo credits: Denis Drever Photography


Congress of the Humanities and Social SciencesCongress 2015Big Thinking