Today, traditional university science teaching continues to focus on rote learning instruction and is firmly limited to its own disciplinary domain. Yet, future scientists will need to use interdisciplinary inquiry and discourse to understand complex systems, communicate these ideas to their peers, and develop testable hypotheses. We have pursued a formal research program called the BRAID, which develops and tests strategies for training science students to bridge scientific disciplines. We have studied a variety of curricula designed to weave a “braid” among freshman undergraduate lecture and lab courses in Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics, as well as History, Philosophy and Sociology of Science (HPS). By using pre- & post-tests, interviews by expert panelists, and longitudinal tracking of students after the experience, we studied this interdisciplinary curriculum and refined it for potential export to the larger university and beyond. The BRAID’s ongoing multiyear investigation points to preliminary conclusions about what does and does not promote student interdisciplinary thinking. Perhaps not surprisingly, our research suggested the most effective technique for helping introductory students understand science in integrated terms has been the most direct: explicitly discussing and engaging in debate with them about the connections found in the real world in a small class setting. On the other hand, adding a thin gilding of interdisciplinarity to existing courses accomplishes very little. Our goal is not to devise the “ideal” interdisciplinary educational experience, but one that is efficient and sustainable in a wide range of existing curricular structures. We present our findings regarding new learning strategies, faculty experiences and case studies of students who experienced interdisciplinary classrooms and were then followed through the rest of their university years.
|Keywords:||Curriculum, Science, Undergraduate, University, Multidisciplinary, Biology, Chemistry|
Associate Professor, Lyman Briggs College and Department of Physiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA
Associate Professor, Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA
Assistant Professor, Lyman Briggs College and Department of History, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA