Defining Interdisciplinary Course Structures

The term “interdisciplinary” is quite often misunderstood or is taken as some very large and very vague idea.  Courses that are often thought of as interdisciplinary are sometimes multidisciplinary, cross-disciplinary or adisciplinary.  Below is an effort to distinguish between these structures.  I have borrowed Carolyn Haynes’ metaphor of ice cream, which, like these structures, is just basically good—but it comes in many varieties that produce very different results.

Interdisciplinarity Studies:

"Address a topic that is too broad or complex to be dealt with adequately by a single discipline or profession"
"Draw on different disciplinary perspectives"
"Integrate their insights through construction of a more comprehensive perspective"

Klein and Newell (Handbook of the Undergraduate Curriculum, 1997) 

Putting Together A Course

Questions To Guide Interdisciplinary Course Preparation

Learning Structures

Inquiry Based Learning

Service Learning

At The Course End, Students Should Be Adept At


ID Student Characteristics