Interdisciplinary Check

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Science  05 Jul 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6141, pp. 11
DOI: 10.1126/science.341.6141.11-c

Interdisciplinarity has been increasingly called for in U.S. science education, but it is not always clear how to best integrate it into the curricula. Gouvea et al. considered the learning objectives of interdisciplinary science courses and created a framework intended to aid in redesigning tasks to better align with these learning objectives. They tested the framework in an introductory physics course that connected with both biology and chemistry. Tasks were divided into those with an imbalance in the interaction between the disciplines, those applying a reasoning strategy or technique from one discipline to another, and those bringing ideas from two separate disciplines together. Using a theoretical analysis of interaction between disciplines, the authors asked a series of questions about the degree to which each of the disciplines was represented in the tasks included in their curriculum, in addition to examining students' written performance on homework and exams and analyzing videos and transcripts of students' reasoning in group problem-solving settings. The results showed that the value of the framework lay not in its ability to characterize tasks in an interdisciplinary context, but rather in its being a tool that can help guide interdisciplinary task creation and revision.

CBE Life Sci. Educ. 12, 187 (2013).

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