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.