Disciplinary Diversity (Teaching and Learning)
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Disciplinary diversity refers to teaching students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds: for example, teaching a course for non-majors or non-specialists (law for business students, ethics for medical students) or acknowledging and building on the different perspectives and ideas students bring with them from other courses.
- LaGuardia, C., Williams, H., Oka, C., & Zald, A. (2002). Teaching across the divides in the library classroom. Permalink
Changes in pedagogy, technology, and resources have forced tremendous change in library instruction in the United States over the past few years. One educational factor has changed even more than learning theory or the technology we use to apply and explore it, and that factor is the characteristics of our user populations. Increasing diversity in students' age, ethnicity, and academic preparation, added to the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of academic curricula, makes it vital for us to question our assumptions about who and what we are teaching in libraries, and how we are teaching it. The "average"18- year-old college student prepared with basic research skills does not exist now, if indeed that average student ever did. Today's students have a wide spectrum of backgrounds and library experiences, ranging from novice to expert, from first-year to returning adult, from non-native English speaker to under-represented ethnic group. This paper discusses recent statistics, and experiences at Harvard University, Northeastern University, and the University of Washington libraries.
- Newswander, L. K., & Borrego, M. (2009). Engagement in two interdisciplinary graduate programs. Higher Education: The International Journal of Higher Education and Educational Planning, 58(4), 551-562.
This qualitative study examines two US interdisciplinary graduate programs which involve faculty and students from different disciplines. Haworth and Conrad's engagement theory of quality graduate education was applied. It was found that when interdisciplinary programs facilitate engagement by supporting diversity, participation, connections, and interactive teaching and learning, students report positive experiences. Engagement is particularly achievable when an interdisciplinary administrative unit (e.g., a school or center) grants degrees and serves as a tenure home for faculty. Students earning degrees in traditional departments had more difficulty connecting interdisciplinary requirements to their disciplinary work, and were often faced with incompatible program requirements or advice from faculty members. Although they desire to do interdisciplinary work, the students and faculty in traditional departments are required to meet additional and often conflicting requirements. Engagement may further be complicated because these participants feel divided between collaborations, social networks, and expectations that pull them in different directions.
- Rutledge, M. L. (2008). Effectiveness of elements of a diversified instructional approach in an introductory biology course. Bioscene: Journal of College Biology Teaching, 34(1), 24-29. Permalink
Students enrolled in a large-lecture, non-majors biology course employing a diversified instructional approach featuring both instructor-centered and student-centered techniques evaluated the effectiveness of each approach in fostering course goals. Students perceived both approaches to be effective to some extent. Students indicated that the instructor-centered approach was more effective than student-centered instruction in fostering knowledge of biological content and of the nature of science, making the course meaningful, and promoting interest in biology as a discipline. Student-centered instruction was perceived to be more effective in engaging students in the learning process, helping students construct their knowledge, and making the course interesting. Students indicated they preferred a diversified instructional approach, noting that the varied instructional environment helped to keep the classroom atmosphere engaging.
- Smith, G. R. (2010). A module-based environmental science course for teaching ecology to non-majors. Bioscene: Journal of College Biology Teaching, 36(1), 43-51. Permalink
Using module-based courses has been suggested to improve undergraduate science courses. A course based around a series of modules focused on major environmental issues might be an effective way to teach non-science majors about ecology and ecology's role in helping to solve environmental problems. I have used such a module-based environmental science course for non-majors. The course is divided into 5 modules, with each module addressing a key environmental issue, specifically global climate change, human population growth, sustainable use of natural resources, habitat loss, and the value of biodiversity. Each module follows the same basic structure: 1) an introduction to the question, 2) an investigation of the basic science underlying the question, and 3) an investigation and discussion of the human aspect of the question (i.e., what can we do?, what are the costs and benefits of addressing the question?, are there any social, economic, or cultural factors that affect our ability to address the issue?, etc.). Each module has associated laboratory exercises that culminate with field-based student-designed surveys of biodiversity on the Denison University Biological Reserve. The module-nature of the course allows for the integration of science and non-science disciplines around basic environmental questions, and appears to be an effective means of teaching environmental science and ecology to non-majors.
- Stark, J. S., & Lattuca, L. R. (1993). Diversity among disciplines: The same goals for all? New Directions for Higher Education, (84), 71-86. Permalink
Based on reports of 10 disciplinary task forces concerning improvement of college instruction, it is suggested that faculty respond to suggestions for curricular change in ways that reflect their disciplinary perspectives. It is concluded that faculty from varied disciplines need thoughtful leadership to develop support for any common curricular framework.
- Yang, M. (2009). Making interdisciplinary subjects relevant to students: An interdisciplinary approach. Teaching in Higher Education, 14(6), 597-606.
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.
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