Pursuing a Curriculum of Interdisciplinary Studies


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The pursuit of interdisciplinary studies in modern curricula represents the continued effort to design an education that gives students the knowledge about the world around them, the ability to critically think about it and then act to the advancement of knowledge and betterment of mankind. The traditional division of disciplines has raised barriers, and techniques from interdisciplinary studies can replace those with bridges. Educators must be committed to overcoming interdisciplinary studies’ unique challenges to make a difference in the future of curriculum.

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Pursuing a Curriculum of Interdisciplinary Studies

  1. 1. Pursuing a Curriculum of Interdisciplinary Studies <ul><ul><ul><li>Graham Garner </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Undergraduate Curriculum • EDLH 732 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Fall 2007 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  2. 2. Overview <ul><li>Classical Education to Core Curriculum </li></ul><ul><li>Division of Disciplines </li></ul><ul><li>Qualities of Interdisciplinary Work </li></ul><ul><li>Barriers: Obstacles to Coordination </li></ul><ul><li>Bridges: Cognitive Strategies </li></ul><ul><li>Integrative Depth </li></ul><ul><li>Contextualization </li></ul><ul><li>Conceptualization </li></ul><ul><li>Problem-centering </li></ul><ul><li>Attitudes about Interdisciplinarity </li></ul><ul><li>Assessment </li></ul><ul><li>Future of Interdisciplinary Curriculum </li></ul>
  3. 3. Classical Education to Core Curriculum <ul><li>Classics sought well-rounded individuals </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ To be educated in any discipline, one must know its basic facts (grammar); be able to think deeply about the subject (logic); and be able to act on that knowledge in a personal, original and independent way (rhetoric).“ (Veith, 1996) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Core curriculum is an evolution of the tradition </li></ul><ul><li>Disciplines developed, divided </li></ul>
  4. 4. Division of Disciplines <ul><li>Barriers instead of bridges </li></ul><ul><li>Divided liberal education </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Humanities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sciences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Applied fields </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Qualities of Interdisciplinary Work <ul><li>Integration is a means, not an end </li></ul><ul><li>Disciplinary expertise is considered seriously </li></ul><ul><li>Disciplines are intertwined, not juxtaposed </li></ul>Miller and Boix Mansilla, 2004
  6. 6. Barriers: Obstacles to Coordination <ul><li>Differences in: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Units of analysis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Multiple levels or units are potentially relevant </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Each perspective has its own useful contribution </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Language </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Terms have multiple meanings in context </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Asking for clarification means higher-order rigor </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Standards of acceptability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Different disciplines offer conflicting and yet internally coherent standards </li></ul></ul></ul>Miller and Boix Mansilla, 2004
  7. 7. Bridges: Cognitive Strategies <ul><li>Reasoning through analogies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Planetary orbits and subatomic particles </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Creating compound concepts </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Terms bridge domains (biochemistry) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Building complex and multi-causal explanations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lactose intolerance and coevolution </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Advancing through checks and balances </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Disciplines keep one another intellectually honest </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Bridging the explanation-action gap </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Some explain, some guide, some solve </li></ul></ul>Miller and Boix Mansilla, 2004
  8. 8. Integrative Depth <ul><li>Mutual Ignorance </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Work in your own corners </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Stereotyping </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Aware of others, even curious, but no depth </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Perspective-taking </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Understand others and sympathize, and perhaps even include in your own approach </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Merging </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Revise and perhaps create hybrids </li></ul></ul>Miller and Boix Mansilla, 2004
  9. 9. Contextualization <ul><li>Focused on humanities </li></ul><ul><li>Embed material in time, culture, personal experience </li></ul><ul><li>Seeks the methodological and philosophical core of disciplines </li></ul><ul><li>Aim is to understand self </li></ul>Nikitina, 2006
  10. 10. Conceptualization <ul><li>Associated with sciences </li></ul><ul><li>Identify core concepts and connections between them </li></ul><ul><li>Abstract physical data and discover systems </li></ul><ul><li>Move beyond facts and theories to underlying concepts </li></ul><ul><li>Aim is to understand the natural world </li></ul>Nikitina, 2006
  11. 11. Problem-centering <ul><li>Associated with applied fields, including social sciences </li></ul><ul><li>Tackle complex real-life problems with knowledge and modes of thinking from a variety of disciplines </li></ul><ul><li>Aim is to take action and create change </li></ul><ul><li>Pragmatic approach can be narrow </li></ul><ul><li>Solves problems </li></ul>Nikitina, 2006
  12. 12. Attitudes about Interdisciplinarity <ul><li>Interdisciplinarity is like taking vitamins </li></ul><ul><li>Compulsion for labels and categories </li></ul><ul><li>Researchers feel a need to defend their validity </li></ul><ul><li>Requires intellectual and personal negotiation </li></ul><ul><li>Much ambiguity and little common ground </li></ul><ul><li>Stumbling blocks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>PhDs: literature, colleagues, supervisors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Informal research groups </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Research funding </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Careers </li></ul></ul>Lau and Pasquini, 2004
  13. 13. Assessment <ul><li>Targeted Assessment Framework </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Success is measured by degree to which the work achieves its purpose </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Strong Disciplinary Grounding </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Appropriate selection, depth of perspective </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Advancement through Integration </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Understanding advanced, knowledge created </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Critical Awareness </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Clarity of purpose, understanding of limitation </li></ul></ul>Boix Mansilla and Dawes Duraising, 2007
  14. 14. Future of Interdisciplinary Curriculum <ul><li>Theme-based </li></ul><ul><li>Curricular sequence </li></ul><ul><li>Texts </li></ul><ul><li>Methods courses </li></ul><ul><li>Philosophy courses </li></ul><ul><li>Conflict between structure and openness </li></ul>Welch, 2003
  15. 15. References <ul><li>Boix Mansilla, Veronica and Elizabeth Dawes Duraising (2007, March/April ). Targeted assessment of students’ interdisciplinary work: An empirically grounded framework proposed. The Journal of Higher Education, 78(2), 215-237. </li></ul><ul><li>Lau, Lisa and Margaret W. Pasquini (2004). Meeting grounds: perceiving and defining interdisciplinarity across the arts, social sciences and sciences. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 29(1), 49-64. </li></ul><ul><li>Miller, Matthew and Veronica Boix Mansilla (2004, March). Thinking across perspectives and disciplines. Interdisciplinary Studies Project, Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education. </li></ul><ul><li>Nikitina, S. (2006, June). Three strategies for interdisciplinary teaching: contextualizing, conceptualizing, and problem‐centring. Journal of Curriculum Studies , 38 (3), 251-272. </li></ul><ul><li>Veith, Gene Edward (1996, November/December). A classical curriculum. Policy Review , 80, 60. </li></ul><ul><li>Welch, James IV (2003). Future directions for interdisciplinary effectiveness in higher education. Issues in Integrative Studies , 21, 170-203. </li></ul>
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