Designing and Teaching Interdisciplinary Courses Workshop for UMBC Faculty June 6, 2005.
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Designing and Teaching Interdisciplinary Courses Workshop for UMBC Faculty June 6, 2005
Who should teach an interdisciplinary course, and how do you do it? Guidelines and Best Practices
ID Faculty Flexibility Patience Resilience Sensitivity to others Risk-taking Thick skin Preference for diversity
Focusing Your Course Themes Topics Comparisons Problems Issues
Common Course Structures Multidisciplinary courses present disciplinary perspectives in serial fashion. Cross-disciplinary courses are courses in which one disciplinary perspective dominates the other(s). Adisciplinary courses attempt to gain holistic picture without specific attention to disciplines. Interdisciplinary courses work toward self- conscious integration of the disciplines.
Definition of Interdisciplinarity “A process of answering a question, solving a problem, or addressing a topic that is too broad or complex to be dealt with adequately by a single discipline or profession.... IDS draws on disciplinary perspectives and integrates their insights through construction of a more comprehensive perspective” (Klein & Newell).
Challenges of ID Work Distortion, misunderstanding of disciplines Use of data, methods, theories out of context Use of borrowings out of favor in their original context Illusions of certainty about phenomena treated with caution or skepticism in their original disciplines Over-reliance on one theory or perspective Dismissal of contradictory evidence
Iron Law (Jonathan Z. Smith) “Students shall not be expected to integrate anything that the faculty can’t or won’t.”
Discussion What are the hopes, fears and concerns of a first year student? A sophomore student? A junior? A senior?
Student Development Theory First-year: concern with “correct” answers; only experts have answers; interdisciplinary means small classes, lively interaction Sophomore/Juniors: some disciplines are more objective than others; ID is about specific courses that bring together different disciplinary views Seniors: truth is contextual; student’s viewpoint is valued; ID = student’s ability to integrate knowledge from different courses, experiences
Process of ID Inquiry (Klein) INITIAL PHASE a. Define problem b. Determine goals, objectives, questions CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK a. Devise a plan b. Gather all current and relevant knowledge SOCIAL LEARNING a. Clarify roles of team members b. Clarify differences in language, methods, tools
ID Process of Inquiry INTEGRATION a. Use known techniques for integration b. Triangulate depth, breadth and synthesis c. Reflect on learning
Integrating Disciplines New holistic understanding through new metaphors, terms, principles “Borrowing” from one discipline and applying that information to another Conceptual framework Integrative action Creative integration Meta-goals or sub-text of course
Course Planning Consider a definition of IDS. Focus your course topic or theme (e.g., place, problem, concept, relationship, issue or debate). Determine which disciplinary perspectives will be used. Assemble team of experts from different disciplines.
Course Design Try to let go of “coverage” model. Develop focusing question(s), and a limited set of key discipline-crossing concepts. Clarify key terms. Determine learning outcomes. Select readings. Develop learning activities, pedagogies, assignments to advance outcomes.
Course Materials Explain how course is ID in the syllabus. Explain how the course will help students meet goals of university and prepare them for life. Make course design, organization, learning disciplinary contributions, outcomes and assessment explicit.
Course Sessions Design sessions that explicitly analyze different disciplinary perspectives. Step back from the process to reflect. Model integration, and invite students to practice it. Bring in guests with differing disciplinary perspectives. Use diverse student expertise.
Assignments Coach the process. Provide models. Be explicit about expectations. Sequence assignments, when possible; but allow for some spontaneity too! Provide some choice.
Faculty Development Appoint course coordinator. Institute ongoing communication among faculty teaching course. Sit in on each other’s courses. Meet with faculty across disciplines who are teaching same or related courses. Consult professional literature and organizations.
Faculty Development Create faculty mentors or peer coaches. Use sabbatical leaves to visit institutions with lively interdisciplinary activity. Develop internal grants for curriculum development. Create reading groups, study groups, research networks.
Effective Pedagogical Approaches for ID Courses Guidelines and Strategies
Different Approaches Formal: long-term structures that are used throughout the term and guide the way the course is designed, such as formal cooperative learning or service-learning courses Informal: short-term approaches that guide how specific class meetings are conducted, such as guest speaker, role-play or debate
Formal, Long-Term Structures Team Teaching Cooperative Learning Inquiry-Based Learning Service Learning Learning Communities
Team Course Design & Teaching Select faculty with appropriate personalities. Address personality differences head-on. Overcome disciplinary biases. Discuss educational philosophies of team members. Overcome status differences. Be aware of student game-playing.
Roles for Team Teachers Model Learner Observer Co-Lecturer Panel Member Discussion or Co-Discussion Leader Case Co-Facilitator Group Facilitator Gadfly Resource
Other Team-Teaching Guidelines Meet regularly throughout course to reflect and plan. Model good teamwork and integration in front of the students. Use differences in viewpoints as learning opportunities for students. Reinforce and support one another as much as possible.
Cooperative Learning Definition “The creation, analysis and systematic application of structures, or content- free ways of organizing social interaction in the classroom. Structures usually involve a series of steps, with proscribed behavior at each step.” (Spencer Kagan).
ID Cooperative Learning Tips Give assignments that can only be done effectively using multiple group members. Select group members that are diverse (e.g., disciplinary interests, personalities). Coach the process of interdisciplinary inquiry. Build trust; have groups process their work. Hold individuals accountable.
Formal Cooperative Structures Student Teams Achievement Division (STAD): Heterogeneous group works together to complete same teacher-designed lesson or test. Jigsaw: Each group member is given specialized, disciplinary area and must contribute to teacher- designed ID assignment. Group Investigation: Teacher presents ID problem; groups must come up with their own plan to address the problem, using multiple disciplines.
Inquiry-Based Learning An orientation toward learning that is flexible and open and draws upon the varied skills and resources of the faculty and students, in which faculty are co-learners who guide and facilitate the student-driven, interdisciplinary learning experience.
Inquiry-Based Learning Steps Create conducive climate. Select and explore a theme. Form a valid question. Design an investigative plan, using ID inquiry process; form groups; select roles. Stop and analyze the process regularly. Communicate and reflect on findings.
Service Learning Service Learning is a teaching and learning method that enables students to link theory with action through guided reflection. It connects students to members of a community where they provide meaningful service that responds to community needs- as defined by the community.
Key Elements Ethical and meaningful collaboration with the community Meaningful integration of service into the course Ongoing reflection on the ethical, intercultural and interdisciplinary implications of the service experience Integrative journals
Learning Communities “A variety of approaches that link or cluster classes during a given term around an interdisciplinary theme, that enroll a common cohort of students” (McGregor, Smith, Matthews, Gabelnick).
Small Group Work Imagine a course on poverty. How might it be structured as a team-taught course? Or an ID service-learning course? An ID inquiry-based course? An ID cooperative learning course? An ID learning community? Choose one approach to imagine.
Short-Term Approaches One-minute papers Class minutes Change your mind debates Hot corners Visual thinking Fish bowl Panel of disciplinary experts Course maps Case studies Analysis of video or magazine (ask students to identify disciplinary contributions)
Sample Syllabus What are its strengths? Its weaknesses?
Questions to Consider: Is the course focused (e.g., problem, historical moment, text, geographical region, or key concept)? Does the focus lend itself to interdisciplinary inquiry? Are the perspectives of disciplines explicit? Are the learning outcomes articulated? Do they relate to interdisciplinarity? Is the course multidisciplinary, cross- disciplinary, adisciplinary or interdisciplinary?
Additional Questions Is there a “hook” at the beginning? Is the structure of the course clear? Do it steadily advance the understanding of the issue? Are the assignments, activities, readings consistent with the developmental level of the students? Is the pedagogy(ies) appropriate for advancing course outcomes? Where does integration happen in the course?
Final Thoughts What additional questions do you have? Next, we will work on teaching interdisciplinary writing and creating effective assignments. If you have an assignment or an assignment sequence that you would like feedback on, please bring 3-4 copies of it to share.