Interdisciplinary Approach to Teaching and Learning

School systems today are beginning to recognize that children have unique and individual ways of learning, and are working to incorporate different activities and learning programs in order to accommodate each students needs. Although many schools still use traditional classroom furniture, new curricula and interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning have the potential to boost each child’s learning potential, no matter what their strengths.

Instructional Strategies Online explains that the purpose of the interdisciplinary approach is to dissolve the boundaries of areas of study and encourage learning across the curriculum.

The site explains: Educators must develop a plan where they can see the natural areas for integration and develop thematic units. Student learning outcomes should include a well-rounded education where critical thinking and transfer of knowledge is evident with the school and the outside world. A constructivist approach to learning where creative thinking processes are developed within a meaningful context will enhance the students education and encourage lifelong learning.

Tips for the Learning Environment is a website dedicated to helping teachers and other educators set up curricula and develop an effective framework for a learning environment. Its Creative Curriculum is designed to help create an environment that meets the childrens needs.

Young children require a structure that helps them become independent and confident learners. The Creative Curriculum lists three essential points:

  • Classroom setup and maintenance, which includes the use of appropriate classroom furniture and creative corners, organization tools and anything else related to a classrooms physical space.
  • A structured daily schedule, with routine and consistency. This provides the children with clear expectations and understanding, which are essential for their confidence and ability to focus.
  • Building a classroom community to meet the social and emotional needs of the students. This provides children with positive examples and motivation, encouraging them to continue to enjoy learning and look forward to school for years to come.

An Interdisciplinary Approach to Teaching

An interdisciplinary approach to learning is meant to dissolve the boundaries of areas of study and encourage learning across the curriculum.

Teaching in an interdisciplinary education system, whether in a traditional setting with classrooms and school furniture or online, can be quite challenging. The benefits, however, are endless. Instructional Strategies Online offers three tips for teachers based on the Interdisciplinary Concept Model (Jacobs and Borland 1986):

  1. Choose a topic-concepts such as observations, patterns, light, revolution, humor, flight, pioneers, the future, and world hunger have proven highly effective (Jacobs).
  2. Brainstorm for ideas that can be organized onto an interdisciplinary concept model. This model has the theme in the center and the subject areas are explored in relation to the theme.
  3. Guiding questions are developed to serve as scope and sequence. The questions are general and should transcend discipline lines (Jacobs p.60).

Affordable Education We Can’t Afford Not to Implement

There are many costs accrued when setting up and educational system. School furniture, buildings, teacher’s salaries, all add up to a large investment. The system of interdisciplinary education, however, is not an added expense, and should be implemented to get the most out of our investment in the future of our children’s educations.

Here is how to implement interdisciplinary studies without any extra expense.

• Most teachers are already well-versed with the methods and empirical practices of teaching related disciplines as a whole. Therefore knowledge of how to become an interdisciplinary teacher is already at hand and can be implemented without much added training and expense.
• Many educators are also well familiar with “task modeling.” This is an instructional strategy which encourages learning through observation. Learning through observation is a fundamental aspect of interdisciplinary education that most students are not familiar with, but if teachers already know the principles no further training is needed.
• The bringing together of insights from different disciplines, which is the hardest part of teaching in this way, is something most “scholar-educators” are well-aware of. They themselves have done this, and can easily learn to teach it with little effort.
• Teachers can make their own assessment about how much of a subject should be taught using an interdisciplinary strategy. Therefore they make their own decisions about how far to take the interdisciplinary approach in their own classroom.

With so much at stake it seems allowing teachers the freedom to use interdisciplinary methodologies when they see that as the best approach for their students is an idea to consider seriously.

Why Teach Students Using an Interdisciplinary Approach

There are many reasons to use an interdisciplinary approach to teaching. Research conducted by educational experts such as Allen Repko, show that interdisciplinary instruction and exploration promotes the aims of improving problem solving skills, self-confidence, gaining insights and more. Repko further concludes that this special type of teaching advances cognitive ability. Others, including Kavalovski in 1979, Newel in 1990 and Field in 1994 have uncovered several specific educational benefits due to interdisciplinary learning. This type of learning, when conducted at students’ school desks promotes:

  • The students’ ability to recognize bias
  • The students’’ ability to think critically
  • An improved ability to tolerate ambiguity
  • A greater appreciation and ability to understand ethical issues

According to Fink (2003) “significant learning” takes place at a greater level when there are more meaningful and prolonged classroom experiences occur. According to Fink’s findings, when teachers give their students a wide range of skills as well as insights about the educational process, students understand the meaning, and learning becomes more real to them. Fink showed six important aspects of the educational process which lead to what he called “significant learning.” Each one of these is a common part of interdisciplinary types of teaching.

  • Foundational Knowledge getting information and understanding the ideas behind that information
  • Application getting an understanding of how and when to use the learned skills
  • Integration – connecting ideas
  • The Human element – having an insight into the social and personal implications of issues
  • Empathy – understanding the roles feelings and values play in learning
  • Understanding what it means to ‘know how to learn’ – getting insights into how people acquire knowledge.

Experiencing the Teaching Moment

In most schools, students sit in their chairs and absorb information. They have lectures about the American Revolution, lectures about Catcher in the Rye, lectures about photosynthesis and such. Few schools, however, work to really incorporate this information into the students’ thought processes or to create an interdisciplinary approach to such topics. Here is an example of how such learning could take place.

There are schools where the entire basis of the curriculum is centered on the interdisciplinary understanding for the students. While working on math problems, the students might simultaneously do a project in art class where they are working on three dimensional items that include math problems. While learning about science, they will go out to a garden that they have at school and see photosynthesis in action.

While reading a book in English class, the teacher will be sure to coordinate with the history teacher so that they are reading about the same time period that the students are learning about in history. Then, in drama class, the students will create a drama based on events from the same time period. Or, the class might rewrite the novel that the students are doing in English class, creating a modern day version of the story in question.

These are just a few of the ways that a multidisciplinary approach to learning could really bring the classroom to life and the learning into action for the students.

Parents and the School Curriculum

Parents often send their children off to school each morning without dedicating much further thought to the topic. They imagine their children sitting in school chairs, eating lunch and playing during the breaks, but in reality, children can benefit greatly from having their parents learn a little more about their curriculum.

Generally, parents are able to keep tabs on their childrens classes through their homework, but learning a little more about their daily and yearly schedule can open up new channels of communication, and make you your childs go-to person if they have a question or problem.

There are numerous online resources available to help parents learn more about their childs school curriculum in any grade, and even stay updated about upcoming projects and other classroom activities. This will also help parents stay on top of their childrens homework, and help them with their more challenging subjects.