Interdisciplinary Course Design

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Annotated Bibliography

Link to Complete Bibliography
For a complete bibliography, please visit the CTLT's shared folder on Refworks.

Having problems? Visit the RefWorks information guide.


  • Miller, K., & Totten, I. (2009). Developing and implementing an interdisciplinary origins course at a state university. Journal of College Science Teaching, 38(4), 24-29.Ubc-elink.png

A truly interdisciplinary course was successfully developed and taught that presented an overview of the historical sciences with an emphasis on the nature of scientific inquiry and its relationship to other ways of knowing. The course included contributions from faculty in physics, biology, geology, philosophy, and English.


  • Newell, W. H. (1994). Designing interdisciplinary courses. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, (58), 35-51.Permalink.svg Permalink

A step-by-step guide to designing interdisciplinary courses is presented. Underlying theoretical rationales and expected educational outcomes are explored, and concrete suggestions and examples are offered. Steps include assembling an interdisciplinary team, selecting a topic, identifying disciplines for inclusion, developing the issues underlying the course, structuring the course, selecting readings, designing assignments, and creating a syllabus.


  • Robles, H. J. (1998). Interdisciplinary courses and programs: Pedagogy and practice. recommendations for planning, implementation, and evaluation.Permalink.svg Permalink

This paper traces the development of disciplinarity in higher education, examines the arguments for and against interdisciplinarity, and identifies major issues in the development of interdisciplinary programs in general, particularly at community colleges. The following subjects are explored in detail: (1) relevant terminology, including curriculum, discipline, interdisciplinary, crossdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, pluridisciplinary, and integrated; (2) disciplinarity and the development of the undergraduate curriculum in American higher education; (3) issues in interdisciplinarity; (4) curricular change; (5) designing interdisciplinary courses and programs; (6) administration of interdisciplinary programs; (7) interdisciplinary studies in the California Community Colleges; and (8) problem-based learning. This paper argues that barriers to successful implementation of interdisciplinary studies include faculty resistance, lack of administrative support, and the rigidity of existing policies and procedures within the community colleges themselves. Appended are a guide to interdisciplinary syllabus preparation, related journal articles, a California Community Colleges list of the top 49 interdisciplinary studies, "Minimum Qualifications for Faculty and Administrators in California Community Colleges" (Jose Peralez), and "Placement of Courses within Disciplines" (Academic Senate for California Community Colleges). Contains 64 references. (AS)


  • Ruwe, D., & Leve, J. (2001). Interdisciplinary course design. Clearing House, 74(3), 117-18.Ubc-elink.png

Describes problems faced in an interdisciplinary course taught by the authors on major 19th and 20th century figures and ideas in the humanities (literature, music, art, and philosophy). Tells how they refashioned it to focus on depth rather than breadth. Offers some hard-won insights and advice for those embarking on interdisciplinary teaching. (SR)


  • Saito, L., Segale, H. M., DeAngelis, D. L., & Jenkins, S. H. (2007). Developing an interdisciplinary curriculum framework for aquatic-ecosystem modeling. Journal of College Science Teaching, 37(2), 46-52.Ubc-elink.png

This paper presents results from a July 2005 workshop and course aimed at developing an interdisciplinary course on modeling aquatic ecosystems that will provide the next generation of practitioners with critical skills for which formal training is presently lacking. Five different course models were evaluated: (1) fundamentals/general principles of interdisciplinary modeling; (2) modular course; (3) survey of various interdisciplinary models; (4) seminar series of case studies; and (5) the art of modeling. Options 1 and 2 were most popular among workshop participants, while option 4 was the least popular.


  • Woods, C. (2007). Researching and developing interdisciplinary teaching: Towards a conceptual framework for classroom communication. Higher Education: The International Journal of Higher Education and Educational Planning, 54(6), 853-866.Ubc-elink.png

Calls for teaching and learning that cross subject boundaries have been making themselves heard in recent Higher Education literature in different national contexts. Communication is pivotal in any such learning encounter: it is in the process of negotiating meaning across disciplines that its rewards and challenges lie. And yet, the question of what characterises interdisciplinary classroom communication in the sector is little researched and little understood. How such interaction differs from that in the monodisciplinary university classroom is under-theorised. Adapting Applied Linguistic theory in Intercultural Communicative Competence (Byram, M. (1997). "Teaching and assessing intercultural communicative competence." Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.) and drawing on a taxonomy of academic disciplines (Becher, T., & Trowler, P. R (2001). "Academic tribes and territories." Buckingham: Society for Research in Higher Education/Open University Press.), the article proposes a model of Communicative Competence as a conceptual tool to shape thinking in developing and researching interdisciplinary teaching and learning in the university classroom.


  • Yang, M. (2009). Making interdisciplinary subjects relevant to students: An interdisciplinary approach. Teaching in Higher Education, 14(6), 597-606.Ubc-elink.png

This paper examines issues relating to the design/redesign of the pedagogy of interdisciplinary undergraduate subjects. Examples include: (a) law subjects for students in Business Management or Building and Surveying; (b) "English Communication for Business" for students in English; and (c) "Information technology in Business" for students in Business. Interdisciplinary subjects often frustrate teachers because of their marginal status within the programme, low student interest and difficulty of creating a balance between the subject's double facets (e.g. the balance between the business and language facets in the above-mentioned Subject b). It has long been advocated that interdisciplinary subjects naturally invite an interdisciplinary pedagogical approach. Nevertheless, the puzzle often remains as to how to reconcile the different disciplinary facets within the subject without confusing students, each having its distinctive tradition of content organisation and teaching/assessment approaches. In the paper, the concepts of interdisciplinary and disciplinary culture and their pedagogical implications are explored, which support an interdisciplinary approach to teaching interdisciplinary subjects. Following that, literature relevant to approaches to pedagogical and curriculum design of interdisciplinary subjects is reviewed. Theories about outcome-based approaches and constructive alignment for designing curriculum and pedagogical design for undergraduate courses are then discussed and their implications for implementing the interdisciplinary approach are examined.

Making an Existing Course Interdisciplinary

Annotated Bibliography

Link to Complete Bibliography
For a complete bibliography, please visit the CTLT's shared folder on Refworks.

Having problems? Visit the RefWorks information guide.


  • Athaide, G. A., & Desai, H. B. (2005). Design and implementation of an interdisciplinary Marketing/Management course on technology and innovation management. Journal of Marketing Education, 27(3), 239-249.Ubc-elink.png

Given increasing industry demand for integrative learning, marketing curricula need to emphasize interdisciplinary approaches to teaching. Although team teaching is a useful method for achieving cross-functional integration, there are very few frameworks for effectively implementing team teaching. Consequently, marketing educators seeking to offer team-taught, interdisciplinary courses have little direction on how to proceed. Against this background, this article describes the design and implementation of a team-taught, Marketing/Management interdisciplinary course on Technology and Innovation Management (TiM). On the basis of their experiences with the course, the authors provide instructors with a template for effectively implementing similar courses.

  • Cady, F. (1976). A successful experiment in interdisciplinary teaching and learning Journal of Legal Education.Ubc-elink.png

A seminar entitled "The Juvenile and the Law" offered by the University of Connecticut Schools of Law and Social Work is described. Designed to foster interprofessional understanding, the class of half law and half social work students is taught by an interdisciplinary team and focuses on research by interdisciplinary student teams.

  • Epstein, M. J. (2004). Teaching a "humanistic" science: Reflections on interdisciplinary course design at the post-secondary level. Current Issues in Education, 7(3).Permalink.svg Permalink

Development of post-secondary curriculum in emerging interdisciplinary fields presents particular challenges in course design and resource utilization, especially when the field is interdisciplinary by nature of its inherent breadth. A new course at the University of Calgary, designed to introduce undergraduate students to the methods and philosophy of Acoustic Ecology--the study of sound and its effects on health, cognition and culture--exemplifies both the challenges and some practical solutions. Following a brief history of the concept and its philosophy, a summary and critique is presented from the first offering of the course as a pilot project. Conclusions drawn include the necessity of an integrative approach to interdisciplinary fields of study that are true "interdisciplines", the utility of experiential fieldwork, and the advantages presented by a student group with diverse academic backgrounds.

  • Hollenbeck, J. E. (2006). Making interdisciplinary courses work with constructivism and science, technology and society (STS). College Quarterly, 9(2).Permalink.svg Permalink

The traditional approach of presenting individual courses concentrating on single disciplines and ignoring linkages to other disciplines is abysmal. If we expect students to understand how science is related to the humanities, it is important to provide the links and bring the disciplines together in a coherent interdisciplinary course using Science, Technology, and Society together in a constructivist methodology. Science, Technology, and Society and constructivism recognize that science does not operate in a vacuum nor does student learning. Knowledge is continuing being assembled by learners and science learning must be taught in the scope of the human experience and understanding.

  • Senchina, D. S. (2010). Weaving science and civics through interdisciplinary courses. Journal of College Science Teaching, 39(6), 44.Ubc-elink.png
  • Uffelman, E. S. (2007). Teaching science in art: Technical examination of 17th-century dutch painting as interdisciplinary coursework for science majors and nonmajors. Journal of Chemical Education, 84(10), 1617-1624.Ubc-elink.png

Two linked courses examining conservation science and art history of 17th-century Dutch painting are described. The two courses have been taught on campus and, most recently, as study-abroad courses in collaboration with the Center for European Studies, Universiteit Maastricht, The Netherlands. The highly interdisciplinary courses are intense, yet presuppose that students have no background in either science or art history. The courses have successfully drawn students who are science majors as well as nonmajors into the same classroom with productive outcomes. Strengths and limitations of the approaches taken are discussed and key resources from the courses are cited.

  • Wade, B. H., & Stone, J. H. (2010). Overcoming disciplinary and institutional barriers: An interdisciplinary course in economic and sociological perspectives on health issues. Journal of Economic Education, 41(1), 71-84.Ubc-elink.png

The authors describe an interdisciplinary course team-taught by an economist and a sociologist. Historically mindful of the less than amicable relationship between these disciplines, these colleagues developed a course that attempted to illuminate the different perspectives of economics and sociology in relation to selected health themes. The article describes course mechanics, pedagogy and assessment, course content, and institutional barriers. In particular, the article highlights some of the unique problems that exist in offering such a course--problems that are either less severe or nonexistent in more traditional courses.


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