By bojana.lazarevska

Interdisciplinary learning supports students as they bring together concepts and methods from two or more different disciplines and apply this to their learning.

There are several benefits to including interdisciplinary learning in the classroom, particularly for schools in the international baccalaureate (IB) programme. Students are encouraged to make connections between subjects, and this type of learning supports the characteristics of the IB learner profile.

Meaningful interdisciplinary teaching can have many positive effects on students and teachers. So, how does interdisciplinary teaching lead to enhanced learning?

Multi/Inter/Trans…What Does it All Mean?

Interdisciplinary is different from multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary because it establishes a deeper level of discourse and integration of disciplines.

Multidisciplinary, on the other hand, is more a way to contrast two disciplinary perspectives against one another and involves little actual interaction between subjects.

Transdisciplinary learning occurs when perspectives from two different disciplines transcend to form a new approach. It’s not an addition of two perspectives, but rather a completely new approach.

An interdisciplinary approach helps the learner focus and better understand the information presented. This way of thinking is a complex skill that involves creative problem-solving and critical thinking, which further assists in developing the characteristics of the IB learner profile.

Interdisciplinary Learning Benefits

Integrating an interdisciplinary approach in the classroom has several benefits for students, most notably:

  • Mental flexibility – Interdisciplinary learning encourages students to understand different ways of learning. This develops a mental flexibility that teaches them to become lifelong learners.
  • Collaboration and communication – An interdisciplinary approach also highlights the importance of collaboration and teamwork, which is an important life skill. Not only that, but students learn how to become great communicators by working in groups and expressing themselves in more creative ways.
  • Problem-solving – Students will need to use prior learning from different subjects and practice problem-solving, which will benefit them far beyond the school walls.
  • Easier to understand – Younger learners often make unique connections between different areas of knowledge, as they have not yet been socialised into the disciplinary perspectives that fragment the academic world. So in reality, it is actually easier for students to learn from an interdisciplinary method.

Characteristics of an Interdisciplinary Approach in IB

In the IB programme, and particularly in MYP, schools needs to be able to engage students in at least one, collaboratively planned, interdisciplinary unit that involves at least two subject groups. That’s why this approach is particularly handy for IB schools.

The characteristics of an interdisciplinary learner also closely match those of the IB learner profile. These include:

  • An open-minded, independent thinker.
  • Creative and innovative.
  • Adaptable and not afraid to try new things.
  • Team-spirited and a great communicator.
  • Balanced.

Examples of Interdisciplinary Teaching

An interdisciplinary teaching approach is not an easy thing to master. Educators need a spark of creativity, patience, and a willingness to experiment in order to effectively integrate this way of learning.

Remember, the aim is to encourage students to make connections between different subjects taught at school.

One easy example of an interdisciplinary activity is having students solve real-world problems. Using skills and concepts from different subjects, have students work in groups and present solutions for a topic that is happening in the news at that time. It could be an exercise around the Australian government, which will include problem-solving from a political and economical viewpoint.

Another example is having students solve future problems that require multiple disciplines to complete. For instance, a challenge you could pose is to have students solve how to save the bees from dying out.

Want to Know How You Can Create an Interdisciplinary Learning Community?

Now that you’re armed with some examples of how to integrate this approach in the classroom, you can start to create a community of interdisciplinary thinkers.

Here at Schoolbox, we create the tools that help IB schools succeed. Talk to us today about how our market-leading learning management system (LMS), community portal, and student wellbeing platform can help you integrate interdisciplinary learning.