MEi:CogSci – Middle European Interdisciplinary Master Programme in Cognitive Science

Umgesetzte Maßnahme

Ziele

Cognitive Science/Kognitionswissenschaften ist eine vergleichsweise junge Disziplin (ca. seit 1950), die sich zum Ziel gesetzt hat, Kognition/kognitive Prozesse in all ihren Ausprägungen (in Menschen und Tieren, individuelle und kollektive/soziale Kognition, un-/bewusst, Wahrnehmung, Problemlösen, Verhalten, etc.) zu studieren. Was Cognitive Science im Vergleich zu vielen anderen Disziplinen auszeichnet, ist ihr radikal interdisziplinärer Zugang, da Kognition ein hochkomplexer Prozess ist, der nicht nur aus der Perspektive einer Disziplin untersucht werden kann. In ihrer Grundkonzeption umfasst die Cognitive Science die Neurowissenschaften, (kognitive) Psychologie, Philosophie, Linguistik, und Informatik.

Im Gegensatz zu klassischen „kognitiven Disziplinen“ (z.B. kognitive Psychologie), die vornehmlich auf empirischen Ansätzen beruhen, basiert Cognitive Science auf zwei Säulen: (a) radikale Interdisziplinarität und (b) Simulation und sog. „computational models of cognition“. Z.B., kognitive Phänomene werden mittels Simulationsmodellen in einem interdisziplinären Ansatz studiert.

Neuere Erkenntnisse z.B. aus den Neurowissenschaften werfen ein neues Licht auf z.T. sehr alte Fragen (z.B. Mind-Body-Problem, Problem des freien Willens oder des Bewusstseins, etc.). Ob der Komplexität dieser Fragestellungen können diese nur durch eine interdisziplinären Herangehensweise erforscht werden, die eine Brücke zwischen naturwissenschaftlichen und geisteswissenschaftlichen Ansätzen schlagen. Cognitive Science bietet genau solch eine Schnittstelle (methodisch, Modelle, etc.) an der Grenze zwischen analytischen, synthetischen und kunst-orientierten Ansätzen.

Trotz (oder wegen) ihrer relativ jungen Geschichte (seit 1956) gab es in der Cognitive Science bis zu vier Paradigmenwechsel, die nachhaltige Veränderungen in ihren Kernkonzepten und Methoden nach sich zogen.

 

Vor diesem Hintergrund und da es im Europäischen Raum zum Zeitpunkt der Gründung dieses MEi:CogSci Joint Masters Programme (< 2006) noch kaum Bildungsangebote in diesem Bereich gab, hat sich aus einer studentischen Initiative (an der Univ. Wien) und einem internationalen Netzwerk an Wissenschaftlern ein Konsortium gebildet, das sich zum Ziel gesetzt hat, ein interdisziplinäres internationales Studienprogramm in Form eines Joint Master Programms im Bereich Cognitive Science zu etablieren.

Um den Herausforderungen des radikal interdisziplinären Charakters der Cognitive Science gerecht zu werden, mussten neue Formen/Formate des Lernens/Lehrens entwickelt/eingesetzt und als intrinsischer Teil der Curriculumsarchitektur implementiert werden. Daraus ergaben sich folgende guiding principles, die beim Design des Curriculums maßgeblich waren:

• Enge Verknüpfung von interdisziplinärer Forschung und Lehre: frühes Heranführen der Studierenden in den Forschungsprozess durch forschungsnahe und forschungsgeleitete Lehre und dementsprechende Lehr-/Lernformate (z.B. Lab Visits/Rotation, projektbasierte Lehre, etc.)

• Reflexion der eigenen Denk- und Wahrnehmungsmuster, um den Studierenden nicht nur zu ermöglichen, mit der Komplexität der Ansätze umzugehen und sich zu orientieren, sondern in dieser Vielfalt auch „ihre Stimme/Verortung“ zu finden.

• Fokus auf individuelle und kollaborative Wissensproduktion (und nicht (nur) Wissensreproduktion) und peer-to-peer etaching/learning

• Souveräner Umgang mit Wissens- und Wissenschaftskulturen an der Schnittstelle zwischen Naturwissenschaften und Humanities/Social Sciences

• Reflektierter Einsatz von Methoden in einem interdisziplinären Umfeld

 

Diese Einreichung beschreibt die konkrete Realisierung des aus diesen Überlegungen entstandenen MEi:CogSci – Middle European Interdisciplinary Master Programme in Cognitive Science. Das Programm wurde 2007 implementiert und läuft seither sehr erfolgreich.

 

Siehe auch:

meicogsci.eu

www.youtube.com/watch

Beschreibung

Dieses aus einer studentischen Initiative und einem ERASMUS Projekt entstandene Joint Master Program in Cognitive Science (MEi:CogSci: Middle European Interdisciplinary Master Program in Cognitive Science | meicogsci.eu) ist ein Zusammenschluss aus 5 Europäischen Universitäten (Wien, Ljubljana, Budapest, Zagreb, Bratislava) und hat sich zum Ziel gesetzt, ein gemeinsames Curriculum zu entwickeln und umzusetzen, das folgenden Anforderungen genügt:

• Es wird dem interdisziplinären Anspruch der Cognitive Science gerecht;

• Es implementiert neue und interaktive Lehr-/Lernformate, wie z.B. forschungsgeleitete Lehre, projektbasierte Lehre, peer-to-peer teaching, Verwendung von e-learning als Reflexionsinstrument zur begleitenden wissenschaftlichen Entwicklung der Studierenden, Fokus auf interdisziplinäre und epistemische Entwicklung der Studierenden, etc.;

• Rasche Hinführung zum wissenschaftlichen Arbeiten durch Lab-Visits, kleine eigenständige Forschungsprojekte (von der Konzeption, über die Planung, bis hin zur Durchführung), Erlernen des Verfassens eines wissenschaftlichen Papers dessen Präsentation auf einer wissenschaftlichen Konferenz;

• Erlernen der sozialen und epistemischen Kompetenzen in der Arbeit in kleinen interdisziplinäre Teams;

• Durch das verpflichtende Auslandssemester Erlernen anderer Wissenschaftskulturen und Erwerb interkultureller Kompetenzen;

• Durch die Kooperation mehrerer Universitäten erweitert sich das Feld an möglichen Spezialisierungen;

The Middle European interdisciplinary master program in Cognitive Science (MEi:CogSci | www.meicogsci.eu) is a joint degree masters program that has been developed out of a student initiative and a SOCRATES Curriculum Development Project with partners from the following universities: Bratislava Comenius Univ., BME and ELTE Univ. Budapest, Univ. of Zagreb, and Univ. Ljubljana under the lead of Vienna University. After a pilot phase teaching started in 2007. This program is taught in English.

 

Cognitive Science

Cognitive Science (CS) is a relatively young field and is broadly understood as the “science of the mind”, studying cognitive and affective phenomena (perception, reasoning, thinking, attention, decision making, language, joint action, behavior, etc.) in general. It is an interdisciplinary field, which has emerged over the last decades in the US and in Europe (e.g., Bechtel et al. 1998; Clark 2001; Friedenberg et al. 2006; Bermúdez 2014). It aims at finding (computational) models and explanations for a deeper understanding of human and non-human processes of cognition.

CS is a highly interdisciplinary undertaking bringing together diverse disciplines such as computer science/artificial intelligence, linguistics, neuroscience, philosophy, psychology as well as, more recently, behavioral biology and anthropology/social science. For a more detailed description of CS see section “Ziele”.

 

Challenges and guiding principles for the development of an interdisciplinary curriculum in CS

Coming from a variety of disciplines, students need to rapidly learn to navigate in different academic cultures and terminologies, while at the same time developing their personal research focus. We therefore had to design an “Enabling Space” (cf. Peschl et al., 2008, 2014), where students actively learn and experience interdisciplinarity in a research-based curriculum and receive the support which they need in order to develop their own ‘academic voice’. This demanded a particular focus on the teaching and learning philosophy, didactical methods, and their organization, which cannot be addressed on the level of an individual course only, but needs an overall curricular concept which aims at tackling the challenges of an interdisciplinary and international master program.

 

For an interdisciplinary cognitive science curriculum several challenges arise:

(A) The field of research is extremely broad in its scope, which demands (i) a highly interdisciplinary approach and (ii) a well-balanced selection of canonic contents.

(B) The models of cognition are developing rapidly with the paradigm shifts.

(C) Cognitive phenomena have to be accessed on different levels of investigation.

(D) The multitude of methodological approaches has to be understood, compared, evaluated, chosen and applied appropriately. Therefore a high level of reflection concerning methodological as well as philosophy (of science) and epistemological issues is necessary.

 

The following challenges had to be tackled in the course of developing an interdisciplinary curriculum for CS:

• Interdisciplinary integration and competences

• Meta competences: knowledge (co)creation, navigating interdisciplinary semantic spaces, “epistemological virtues/attitudes” and competences, negotiation of meaning, etc.

• Balance between breadth vs. depth of content

• Integration of levels of investigation and complexity

• Terminological and conceptual divides

• Diversity in methods and validation of evidence

• Societal, social and cultural aspects

• Confronting and integrating reductionist vs. holistic approaches in science

• Differences in epistemological attitudes and values (work on premises, etc.)

 

The challenges in curriculum development reflect particular challenges the student should go through during his/her research-based studies:

• Reflection in an interdisciplinary and diverse academic field

• Posing your own (disciplinary) assumptions question(s) on the basis of having a more reflected view on one´s own disciplinary background

• Exploration and studying the (cognitive) phenomenon in a systematic and interdisciplinary manner

• Discovering a (seemingly well-known) cognitive phenomenon in a new light

• Search for or create adequate methods and models

• Work in an interdisciplinary manner on this phenomenon and learn to be driven by the phenomenon rather than by a given set of methods

• Ideally (Co-)Construction of a (new or alternative) model or approach of the specified phenomenon

 

Curricular architecture

Based on these challenges a curricular architecture has been developed. The MEi:CogSci curriculum is conceptualized as Bologna-conform interdisciplinary research-master program (2 years, 120 ECTS). The aim was to design a curriculum that is open for students having their bachelor degree in one of the core disciplines of CS; the idea is that students mutually benefit from the different expertise they bring in. They find themselves in a situation where they have to work together and negotiate their disciplinary and epistemological backgrounds in depth.

 

The curriculum is structured in a “2-phase 3-column architecture” (see attached pdf). The two phases are (1) the introductory and (2) the thematic/phenomenon and research-oriented phase of specialization. Orthogonally 3 columns are established: the (a) disciplinary, (b) tools, and (c) integrative/ interdisciplinary column (“interdisciplinary kernel”).

 

The goal of this architecture is to integrate the basic disciplines, methods, and approaches in CS in a comprehensive manner in every phase of the curriculum, by providing necessary reflection of the diversity in methods, paradigms, epistemological attitudes and hidden assumptions. This guiding principle pops up in various contexts of the curriculum.

 

Temporal organization: 2 phases

The introductory phase aims (a) at providing basic and introductory knowledge of issues, approaches, methods, models, and paradigms in CS, and (b) at equilibrating the differences in the students´ bachelors’ knowledge from different disciplines.

Based on the concepts and skills from phase 1, the phenomenon-orientedness of phase 2 is realized in various ways in the second year: Each student chooses a field of specialization in one cognitive phenomenon for his/her mobility semester and for the masters thesis. It is a requirement that this phenomenon has to be studied in an interdisciplinary manner.

 

Functional organization: 3 columns

 

Column 1: discipline oriented

As students enter this program with different disciplinary backgrounds it is necessary to provide basic knowledge of the other core disciplines of CS.

 

Column 2: tools

This column provides students with theoretical, practical, methodological, as well as experimental tools in the field of CS: e.g., simulation tools, programming, statistical techniques, empirical methods, etc.

 

Column 3: integrative kernel

The integrative kernel is the most important element in this curriculum. Its main function is to introduce students to the key concepts/paradigms in CS; it also aims at providing a space for interdisciplinary dialogue and integration, furthering the reflection and integration of disciplinary approaches by explicitly analyzing their epistemological attitudes and hidden assumptions.

 

Developing one’s own path through the curriculum

The structure of the program might appear to be quite rigid. However, after a rather strict first semester the curriculum actually allows for construction of highly individual pathways by providing a semi-structured frame enabling the shaping of a personal cognitive science profile, both methodologically and content-wise.

A detailed description of the curriculum, including the competencies to be built in each module can be found here: www.meicogsci.eu/wiki/Curriculum/.

 

Didactical measures

It is not a single measure which makes this curriculum design unique; rather, it is the mix and the integration of these measures over the course of the program that draws students deeper into their work not only in the field of CS, but also of their own epistemological development and framework.

 

Kick-off phase

• Explaining the curriculum & its possibilities

• Personal counseling/coaching for the choice of the disciplinary modules

• Community building between the students, in order to create greater social coherence within the cohort

• Establishing interdisciplinary teams which will work together throughout the semester

 

Interdisciplinarity and working in interdisciplinary teams—focus on epistemological and philosophy of science issues

Applying state-of-the-art techniques from the field of knowledge technologies (e.g., knowledge mapping techniques, dialogue (Bohm), explicating hidden premises and assumptions, negotiating semantic fields, etc.) the gaps between disciplines (as well as students´ backgrounds) are made explicit, are reflected, and eventually reduced/closed in moderated peer-to-peer teaching sessions. One of the USPs of this program is its consistent interdisciplinary integration of approaches form humanities and natural sciences.

 

Research orientation and teaching-research nexus

MEi:CogSci is designed as a research-based curriculum, seeking to implement research-oriented learning settings from the beginning on: Over the years a network of university and non-university researchers was developed, who are contributing to the program by participating in the ring lecture, offering lab visits, and places for internships. Thus students will be involved in “real” research environments from the very beginning. Learning contracts between student, supervisor, and MEi:CogSci team are used to plan the individual research projects and for the recognition of grades.

 

Annual international MEi:CogSci Conference

The annual MEi:CogSci Conference is an event, where students from all partner universities meet their peers as well as teachers and researchers from the partner universities in order to present their work.

In order to take part in the conference, students need to work on a scientific project or their masters thesis during the summer term and write a paper on this project. The conference includes a peer-review process, which precedes the conference. Within this process students learn both to write a scientific paper about their work, and to give feedback to their peers’ work.

 

Steps taken to accompany the student’s personal research process

• Application procedure: during the application procedure students need to define their research question/their current interests in CS that should guide them through the curriculum. Students are thereby encouraged to think even before starting their studies, what is of interest for them and which questions they bring with them.

• ePortfolio: for reflecting on the student´s epistemological development.

• Learning contracts & masters thesis concept are introduced to specify and supervise interdisciplinary contents, methods, schedule, and outcomes of their research projects.

 

Student mobility and international teaching and research cooperation

As the MEi:CogSci program is a joint degree program students have to spend at least one semester at one of the partner universities. Each of these universities has a variety of specializations which can be chosen from according to the students´ interests.

 

Scientific writing, non-native speakers teaching and learning in English

The curriculum is taught in English and provides many opportunities to practice supervised scientific writing and presenting in English.

 

Quality assurance

We take the importance of managing students’ expectations seriously and provide detailed information and personal consultation already in the application phase as well as throughout the program. Besides offering regular consultation for new/potential students and providing structured mentoring, we also take feedback measures to assure and improve the quality of the program.

• Students are regularly reflecting on their learning process in the ePortfolio, where they are also asked to give their opinion on courses, etc.

• We organize regular focus groups with students, where we discuss curricular issues, problems, and possible improvements.

• Teachers’ feedback is obtained in personal meetings & in teacher meetings.

 

Concluding remarks

• From an organizational perspective MEi:CogSci has become a best-practice project for innovative didactical practice, which had an impact on the design of many curricula at the Univ. of Vienna.

• The curriculum and its implementation produces highly motivated students which on average have very good prospects in finding a PhD position or an appropriate position in the industry.

• We live in a knowledge society, thus the ability to categorize and understand and judge concepts beneath seemingly similar terminologies from various sources will become even more important in the future, along with the ability to work and conduct research in interdisciplinary environments.

Positionierung des Lehrangebots

Joint Masters Program

Das Beispiel wurde für den Ars Docendi Staatspreis für exzellente Lehre 2016 nominiert.