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Some strategies for interdisciplinary teaching

An article exploring four strategies commonly used for interdisciplinary teaching, with descriptions of what each one involves.
Students working together on creating a poster.
© University of York

In school science lessons there is usually a strong focus on developing understanding of scientific concepts and competencies. In real life, however, science takes place in a social and cultural context. This influences the decisions made about the use, conduct, regulation and funding of scientific research.

Understanding that emerges from scientific research can be applied to technologies and processes that affect us all. Some of these applications can have positive impacts on people’s lives and the world we live in, some can have negative impacts, and others have impacts that are beneficial to some people and detrimental to others.

Teaching students how to understand and approach such issues in a constructive and interdisciplinary way is likely to require teachers to use strategies that differ somewhat from approaches they normally use in teaching their subject specialism. It might involve exploring philosophical questions, analysing policy or interpreting media.

A few strategies that might be used to help students develop more interdisciplinary ways of working are described below.

Strategy Description of what is involved
Investigation and problem solving Students work in teams on real-life problems. Examples might include: environmental field work; energy generation and efficiency; fuel security; or open-ended investigative work.
Designing, making and presenting Students generate a product such as a presentation, animated film, magazine article, pamphlet, poster, or cartoon strip, that communicates some scientific understanding to a specified audience.
Storytelling Students listen and respond to stories about the history of some scientific understanding or the impact of a scientific innovation / students generate their own stories, perhaps on the possible impacts of an application.
Tasks to promote reasoning and constructive argument Students discuss, debate or make decisions about an issue, perhaps one that is controversial or untested.

These strategies are quite broad in their scope and the detail of each one is not fully described in the table. We will look in more detail at some specific and targeted examples of these strategies during week 3 of this course – using examples that are taken from the Science Beyond the Boundaries teaching units.

Over to you

  • What is your experience of using one of these strategies?

Please share your thoughts with fellow learners in the Comments.

© University of York
This article is from the free online

STEM Teaching: Teaching Science Beyond The Boundaries

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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