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Characteristics of successful interdisciplinary work in schools

A description of research findings that describe what happens in schools that leads to successful interdisciplinary teaching.
A three story secondary school block, looking across a sports field.
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Creating the conditions for interdisciplinary work

What are the research findings?

This article describes characteristics that have been found to help make interdisciplinary teaching successful. The observations are derived from a range of research projects undertaken over the last twenty years.

School characteristics

Support from the head-teacher and/or the school’s senior leadership team is an important step in ensuring success. Schools that structure time and space for collaboration between staff in different departments are more likely to make interdisciplinary teaching successful.

Teacher characteristics

Experience and skills are important. There is also plenty of evidence that teachers who actively chose to teach an interdisciplinary unit are more likely to show commitment and tenacity in making it work than those who have no choice.

Teacher training

Many successful examples of interdisciplinary teaching include dedicated training for the teachers taking part.

Joint planning with colleagues, and working with concrete examples of resources and materials, enables teachers to engage more fully with an intervention and supports constructive discussion in training.

Learning and teaching resources

Many interventions support interdisciplinary classroom learning and reduce teacher preparation time by providing resources ready for teachers to use.

Others involve teachers in the production of learning and teaching resources, but this requires time for teachers to work together or with researchers.

In addition to bespoke interventions, simple changes to textbooks, to include social contexts and views from other subject areas, can promote interdisciplinary discussions in science lessons.

Over to you

  • Are you surprised by any of the findings described in the article?
  • Are there other characteristics you can think of that could additionally support interdisciplinary teaching?

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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