Bringing Relationships Alive through Interdisciplinary Discourse (BRAID)

By Douglas Luckie, Ryan Sweeder and Richard Bellon.

Published by The International Journal of Pedagogy and Curriculum

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

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

International Journal of Pedagogy and Curriculum, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp.133-144. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 618.664KB).

Dr. Douglas Luckie

Associate Professor, Lyman Briggs College and Department of Physiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA

Doug Luckie is an Associate Professor jointly appointed in the Lyman Briggs College (a residential science and liberal arts program) and in the Department of Physiology at Michigan State University. He pursues both his discipline-based physiology research into the disease, cystic fibrosis (CF), as well as, creative scholarship and research about teaching and learning in the sciences.

Dr. Ryan Sweeder

Associate Professor, Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA

Ryan D. Sweeder is an Associate Professor of chemistry in the Lyman Briggs College (a residential science program) at Michigan State University. He received his Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry and Chemistry Education at the University of Michigan and completed his postdoctoral studies at Cornell University. He is a member of Michigan State University’s Center for Research on College Science Teaching and Learning (CRCSTL). He and his research group explore gender inequity in science education, strategies to retain students in the sciences, and the impact of curricular interventions on student learning.

Richard Bellon

Assistant Professor, Lyman Briggs College and Department of History, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA

Richard Bellon teaches history of science and science policy at Michigan State University, where he holds a joint appointment in the Lyman Briggs College (a residential science program) and the Department of History. He has published extensively on the social and cultural place of natural history in Victorian Britain, with current research focusing on the influence of Charles Darwin’s botany on the initial controversy over the Origin of Species.