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Interdisciplinary Approaches to Teaching. How to Make Your Classroom Interdisciplinary

Interdisciplinary teaching model attracts a growing number of educators around the world, both in school and in higher education. Arthur H. Goldsmith of the University of Washington has published Pedagogy in Action, an interdisciplinary approach to teaching, which can be a practical guide not only for teachers in the United States, but also in any other country.

First you need to understand that prof. Goldsmith means "interdisciplinary learning".

Interdisciplinary instruction entails the use and integration of methods and analytical frameworks from more than one academic discipline to examine a theme, issue, question or topic. The hallmark of interdisciplinary education is integration of notions and guiding principles from multiple disciplines to systematically form a more complete, and hopefully coherent, framework of analysis that offers a richer understanding of the issue under examination.

Why Teach In an Interdisciplinary Fashion?
An emerging viewpoint in higher education emphasizes that a thorough understanding of today's real life problems requires interdisciplinary reflection. For instance, when society and policymakers address the question of whether to raise the minimum wage they will certainly draw from economics, theories of social justice and social psychology. Clearly, insight from a single disciplinary framework is not sufficient to help resolve such a complex issue. Students who are regularly exposed to classroom conversations and assignments that tackle real-world problems in an interdisciplinary fashion; engage in significant learning, realize cognitive gains, and are better positioned to understand challenging problems and to frame viable solutions.

How to Teach in an Interdisciplinary Manner
Educators must demonstrate or model for students how to approach issues in an interdisciplinary fashion because discipline based learning is the standard teaching structure so they will be unfamiliar with how to synthesize or integrate insights from a range of disciplines into an inclusive framework of analysis. The most challenging part of interdisciplinary instruction is moving beyond examination of an issue from the lens of multiple disciplines, to the synthesis and integration of insights into a more inclusive framework of analysis. A six step procedure for how to effectively integrate idea from multiple disciplines is provided in the section of the module dedicated to How to engage in interdisciplinary Teaching along with teaching tips, insights on how to reduce the costs of becoming an interdisciplinary teacher, and ideas on what types of classes are best suited for interdisciplinary instruction.

Effective design and implementation of interdisciplinary classroom explorations, regardless of the level or type of class, entails six key steps.

1. Pre-Instructional Planning - Prior planning establishes the topics to be examined in an interdisciplinary manner, and allows the educator to acquire the requisite knowledge, and to develop an action plan--codified in a set of notes that may include open ended questions--to guide the classroom experience.

2. Introduce the Methodology to Students - Explain to students the nature of interdisciplinary, rather than discipline based learning. Impress upon them the importance of integrating insights and approaches from multiple disciplines to form a framework of analysis that will lead to a rich understanding of complex questions. Make clear that you will be modeling how to approach an issue in an interdisciplinary manner, and that ultimately they will be asked to master this skill. Allay student fears by noting they will be given assignments that help them reach this objective by practicing approaching topics as interdisciplinary investigators.

3. Take it to the Classroom - Model how to explore questions from an interdisciplinary perspective. Repko and Welch (2005), leading figures in the movement to promote interdisciplinary education, identify 9-steps to follow to engage students in an interdisciplinary exploration.

4. Practice Interdisciplinary Thinking - Students practicing interdisciplinary thinking by reenacting what they observe in the classroom is an effective way to acquire this higher order cognitive skill. Students can be assigned the task of rethinking an issue discussed in a discipline based manner in class by bringing another discipline to bear and then attempting to synthesize and integrate their analysis. Student groupIn a small class setting (i.e. freshmen seminars, upper level classes supporting interdisciplinary programs, capstone courses) students can be asked to prepare interdisciplinary position papers for each assigned reading that extends the analysis to reflect the interdisciplinary process; consider other disciplinary perspectives, synthesize, and integrate. Collaborative forms of learning can be used to promote development of interdisciplinary analysis skills--such as breaking into groups in class to work on ways to approach issues of concern in an interdisciplinary fashion. Student groups can bring their work back to the larger group for refinement.

5. Provide Feedback - Extension and interdisciplinary position papers should be evaluated regularly using a rubric. A student writes in a journal while sitting outdoorsThe aim should be to provide the students with feedback on their ability to understand and delineate the underlying structure and analytical framework of other relevant disciplines (multidisciplinary thinking) and to produce an integrated analysis (interdisciplinary thinking). Grading might best take the form of check, check plus, and check minus, so as to simply identify the areas in need of additional skill development. Faculty student conferences may be necessary for those students struggling to master the integration element of interdisciplinary learning. The goal is for students to improve their capacity to think in an interdisciplinary manner over the course of the term.

6. Assessment - Students should engage in self evaluation periodically by rating their ability to: set out the structure of multiple disciplines that are well suited to the problem of interests, synthesize insights from multiple disciplines, and integrate ideas across disciplines. This information will allow them to gauge their progress, identify challenging areas, to seek help, and set goals for improvement.

You can read more about the interdisciplinary approach to teaching, about the possible problems faced by teachers, about ways to integrate disciplines - you can read on the website https://serc.carleton.edu/