Program Elements Fostering Interdisciplinary or Integrative Learning
Overview of Interdisciplinary Programs and the Expanding Knowledge Initiative
Pathways into the major allow for students interested in biology, chemistry, or the health professions to pursue a biological chemistry major without committing to a major until the spring term of their second year.
A description of the development of the major was published and highlighted in an article in the CUR Quarterly:×
Voyles BA. Inquiry-Based Biology and Biological Chemistry: An Evolutionary Tale. In Reinvigorating the Undergraduate Experience: Successful Models Supported by NSF's AIRE/RAIRE Program, Eds. Kauffman LR, Stocks JE. Washington, D.C.: Council on Undergraduate Research, 2003
A Neuroscience Concentration provides pathways for students from Biology, Chemistry, or Psychology majors and includes courses from outside of the sciences.
An extensive college-wide faculty development program has facilitated interdisciplinary teaching and learning. Modes of faculty development include:
Faculty-faculty tutorials encourage interdisciplinary teaching and greater diversity in our curriculum. The faculty members involved in the tutorial must be from different departments. Tutorials may benefit each participant or may aim primarily at one participant learning from the other. The tutorials can take place at any time during the academic year or the summer and last over whatever period of time participants find most beneficial. A tutorial usually ranges from five meetings of two or more hours, to ten or more meetings of shorter duration. Faculty members receiving funding for faculty-faculty tutorials are expected to spend a minimum of thirty hours each, including time together and individual study time, on the tutorial project.
Faculty Reading Groups and Weekend Seminar
Reading groups focus on the study of scholarly, literary, philosophical, scientific, or historical texts selected by the participants, who are faculty members from multiple departments. Reading groups typically meet weekly or bi-weekly. Weekend seminars usually begin on Friday evening, with a second session the following Saturday morning. For both formats, organizers may apply for funding to pay for books only, not for food.
Professional Meetings Relating to Teaching
On-Campus Summer Workshops
Three kinds of summer workshops are supported:
o Mini-workshops (less than three days) usually focused on development of technological competencies or reading and discussion on a topic of common interest.
o Curricular development workshops focus on individual or collaborative development of specific courses and course components that the faculty member will teach within the next year.
o Teaching enhancement workshops, devoted to conversations about writing instruction, oral communication, information literacy, advising, or other topics of general interest to faculty members.
Teaching and Learning Discussion Groups
These groups provide a regular forum for discussion of classroom experiences and pedagogical ideas among faculty from multiple departments with related teaching interests. The groups usually meet once or twice a month.
Workshops, Courses, and Seminars to Develop New Teaching Competencies
In accordance with the college's strategic interest in promoting interdisciplinary studies, funding is available for faculty members to attend off-campus workshops, non-credit courses, and seminars that develop new teaching competencies in areas outside one's usual academic discipline. Examples include faculty members developing new foreign language competencies in order to incorporate second language options or materials in their courses or developing new media competencies in order to allow students to undertake media projects as part of their course work.
Funds from HHMI and the Mellon Foundation supported faculty "bridging" projects allowing faculty to take on-campus courses in a different discipline or co-teach a course with a faculty member from a different discipline.
A poster (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 244kB Jul23 15)describing these bridging projects lists many of the courses involved and was presented at a Project Kaleidoscope meeting. This summary figure depicts the connections made between different courses.
Gregg-Jolly, L.A., C. Lindgren and S. Kuiper. "A Faculty Development Program for Bridging the Physical and Life Sciences in Undergraduate Education". pKAL F21 National Assembly, Chantilly, VA, November 2007.
Interdisciplinary courses that have been developed and implemented include:
- HUM/SCI 295 – Space, Time and Motion
- SCI295 – Energy Sustainability
Assessing impact of interdisciplinary teaching has been measured using student-reported learning outcomes linked to interdisciplinary course activities and goals using The Research on the Integrated Science Curriculum (RISC) survey.
Swartz, J. July 2011. American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Student-Centered Education in the Molecular Life Sciences conference invited plenary presentation on assessing student learning in interdisciplinary science education. "A Multi-institutional Study of Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning in STEM: A Research-based Framework" RISC presentation (PowerPoint 2.3MB Jul31 15)