A conceptual model for knowledge integration in interdisciplinary teams: orchestrating individual learning and group processes

  • Deana PenningtonEmail author


A well-known barrier to successful interdisciplinary work is the difficulty of integrating knowledge across disciplines. Integrated conceptualizations must leverage the combined knowledge of team members in productive ways for a given problem. The process of knowledge integration has been investigated from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including organizational science, team psychology, social science, and the learning sciences. These various perspectives are converging on a few key processes that mediate successful knowledge integration: ability to learn each other’s perspectives, participatory processes, and flexible, adaptive problem formulation. This article summarizes key findings from the research literature on knowledge integration and presents a new conceptual model for developing interdisciplinary conceptualizations that links individual, group, and system factors. The model provides clarity regarding the interactions between individual learning and group processes and the challenges these present, identifies strategies for overcoming those challenges, and frames the problem as one of developing a new distributed cognitive system.


Distributed cognitive systems Boundary objects Knowledge integration Interdisciplinary teamwork 



The author gratefully acknowledges the support of the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. OCI-1135525 for the CI-Team Diffusion project: The Virtual Learning Commons and HRD-1242122 for the Cyber-ShARE Center of Excellence. The model has been developed over a period of 8 years, and has benefited from feedback by numerous colleagues and reviewers.


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© AESS 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Texas at El PasoEl PasoUSA

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