Tufts OpenCourseware
Authors: Linda Jarvin, Annie Soisson
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Fall 2009
Gretchen Kaufman, DVM
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University

1. Interdisciplinary Teaching Annotated Bibliography

Prepared by Linda Jarvin, PhD and Annie Soisson, PhD - Tufts University

We have found that there are at least four important questions to consider when developing team taught interdisciplinary courses.

  1. What does it mean to do interdisciplinary work versus multidisciplinary work?

  2. How does one effectively develop a course as a team and team teach?

  3. How does one design course activities that encourage interdisciplinary thinking?

  4. How does one assess interdisciplinary work?

Additionally, one of the biggest challenges we have discovered in developing effective interdisciplinary courses is how to help students, in a short period of time, to have a deep enough understanding of the disciplines most relevant to the problem (or know where to find the expertise) to enable them to integrate those disciplines to generate effective solutions or raise new questions. In the One Health course, the faculty paired students for the first part of the semester to research four areas that they and the students agreed upon as most relevant to the issue under study. The pairs of students then shared their research through presentations to each other before creating four concept maps that they later merged into one large concept map, visually depicting the complexities of the One Health issue.

The following bibliography is not comprehensive, but is targeted to what we find to be some of the most useful writings on these topics given the limited amount of time for faculty to read. Some of the literature may still take some time to read and admittedly has educational research language perhaps not familiar to you, but is a worthwhile endeavor for your teaching team to undertake in order to develop a common definition of interdisciplinarity, and a shared understanding of what you are undertaking together. There are many articles written for specific disciplines, so a literature review of your own might produce some examples that are relevant to the specifics of your course.

2. Books

* Davis, J.R. (1995). Interdisciplinary Courses and Team Teaching. Phoenix, AZ: American Council on Education and The Oryx Press

In this book James R. Davis explains the benefits and pitfalls of interdisciplinary, team-taught courses and provides current, practical information on how to design and conduct them. If you are choosing, read chapter 3 Structuring and Delivering Interdisciplinary Courses: Approximating the Ideal and chapter 4 When Faculty Work in Teams: Learning from the Research on Groups and Teams. Davis also includes a listing of nearly 100 interdisciplinary, team-taught courses currently being offered at colleges and universities in North America.

Haynes, C. (Ed.). (2002). Innovations in Interdisciplinary Teaching. Westport, CT: American Council on Education/Oryx Press

According to this book, interdisciplinary pedagogy is concerned primarily with fostering in students a sense of self-authorship and a notion of knowledge that they can use to respond to complex questions, issues, or problems. This book is designed to assist both new and experienced faculty members who are teaching in interdisciplinary settings and who want to advance integrative learning with their students, as well as administrators who want to encourage integrative and interdisciplinary teaching in their institutions.

Newell, W. (Ed.). (1998). Interdisciplinarity: Essays from the Literature. New York, NY: College Entrance Examination Board

This book provides the best that has been written about the potential of interdisciplinary study and about solutions to many practical problems encountered by interdisciplinary programs located in a university structured around disciplines. Newell has spent a career perfecting the art of advancing interdisciplinary studies and possesses a wealth of experience in this form of alternative education. This book will help faculty members rooted in the intellectual frameworks of their disciplines to branch out to other fields in the university to broaden their understanding and enhance their teaching.

3. Articles

* Boix Mansilla, V., Dawes, Duraising, E., Wolfe, C., Haynes, C. (2009) Targeted Assessment Rubric: An Empirically Grounded Rubric for Interdisciplinary Writing. The Journal of Higher Education, Volume 80, Number 3, May/June 2009, pp. 334-353

In this paper, the authors introduce the "Targeted Assessment Rubric for Interdisciplinary Writing," an empirically-tested instrument designed to assess interdisciplinary writing at the collegiate level. Interdisciplinary writing presents unique challenges to students, calling upon them to mediate the rhetorical, theoretical, and methodological differences inherent in multiple disciplinary discourses. The rubric proposes four distinct dimensions to be examined: a paper's "purposefulness," "disciplinary grounding," "integration," and "critical awareness." For each criterion, four qualitatively distinct levels of student achievement are described: "naive," "novice," "apprentice," and "master." The rubric builds on a clear definition of interdisciplinary work, a related assessment framework, and recent scholarship on interdisciplinary writing. Here, the authors review the assessment literature and the rubric's conceptual foundations. They introduce the rubric through an example of student work and describe the methods by which they developed and tested it. They conclude with concrete recommendations for practice.

* Boix Mansilla, V. (2006). Interdisciplinary Work at the Frontier: An empirical examination of interdisciplinary epistemologies. Issues in Integrative Studies No. 24, pp1–31

Though interdisciplinary study is viewed as important, even necessary, in resolving large problems in the world, there are few empirical studies that illuminate exactly what “interdisciplinary” means, and what effective interdisciplinary study/research looks like in practice. Mansilla interviewed in depth 55 individuals in five recognized interdisciplinary research institutes in academic and non-academic settings in an attempt determine what approaches are used in their seemingly idiosyncratic research practices. Her analysis reveals three approaches to interdisciplinary inquiry and terms them conceptual-bridging, comprehensive and pragmatic.

* Boix Mansilla, V., Assessing Student Work at Disciplinary Crossroads, Change, Jan/Feb 2005

This is a really good easy-to-read foundation article. Adequately assessing student learning in higher education remains more a matter of collective hope than one of convergent and well-tested practice. The issue is marred by controversies over the purposes, methods, and most importantly, the very content of such assessment. Lack of clarity about indicators of quality is particularly evident in the assessment of student interdisciplinary work—where both the nature of interdisciplinary understanding and its assessment remain insufficiently defined. What does it mean to understand an issue in depth in an interdisciplinary way? How is it different from deep disciplinary understanding or a superficial merging of viewpoints? A clear articulation of what counts as quality interdisciplinary work and how such quality might be measured is needed if our academic institutions are to foster in students deep understanding of complex problems and evaluate the impact of interdisciplinary education initiatives. In this article, I put forth a definition of interdisciplinary understanding and a framework to inform our assessment of student interdisciplinary work. The arguments I present stem from an empirical study of interdisciplinary research and educational practices in well-recognized research centers and educational programs such as (but not limited to) the Media Lab at MIT, the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, and Human Biology Program at Stanford University.

Haynes, C. (2005) Designing and Teaching an Interdisciplinary Course. Resource Manual created for “Teaching Outside the Lines” Workshop at Duke University

This manual is a practical guide developed by Carolyn Haynes at Miami University of Ohio based on her many years of experience in developing and teaching interdisciplinary courses. Most useful are the sections on classroom roles for faculty when team teaching, and the examples of activities that encourage interdisciplinary thinking. (If you are unable to find this, you can contact Carolyn directly at Miami University of Ohio.)

Team Teaching: Benefits and Challenges. Speaking of Teaching. Newsletter by The Center for Teaching and Learning, Stanford University, Fall 2006 newsletter, vol. 16, #1. http://ctl.stanford.edu/Newsletter/teamteaching.pdf

This is a short list of the “ten commandments of team teaching” as developed by two professors at Stanford University.

*If you only have a little time to read, and are new to the literature, these chapters/articles are where you might focus your time.