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Three strategies for interdisciplinary teaching: contextualizing, conceptualizing, and problem‐centring

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This paper distinguishes among contextualizing , conceptualizing , and problem-centring as three basic approaches to interdisciplinary curriculum. This typology is based on the type of inquiry that takes place in the classroom. For example, if the guiding epistemology in the interdisciplinary work is that of the humanities, the mode of connecting disciplinary material is likely to be contextualizing , or embedding the facts and ideas in the cultural, historical, or ideological fabric. If the scientific method guides and sets the standard for integration, conceptualizing work typically takes place. Finally, if the spirit and mode of inquiry is that of the applied sciences or creative product-development, the integrative process will take the form of problem-based investigation of urgent or tangible issues. Using empirical data from exemplary university, pre-university, and professional programmes in the US, I describe three integrative strategies and comment on their strengths. This basic typology provides alternative approaches to interdisciplinary material based on the purpose of the class inquiry. In the hands of a good instructor, several interdisciplinary strategies could be used together for mutual benefit.

Keywords: epistemology; instructional methods; interdisciplinary approach; problemā€oriented instruction

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Research Specialist with Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education, 5th Floor, 124 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

Publication date: 2006-06-01

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