What is the Interdisciplinary Approach to Teaching and Learning?

This approach to teaching requires planning that looks at the foundational objectives of a number of curriculum areas. Connecting curriculum in the interdisciplinary approach is an efficient way to help teachers deal with knowledge that grows at exponential proportions (Jacobs). A unit of study that uses the interdisciplinary approach enables teachers to teach the whole student and make links between disciplines. One goal for this approach is to give students a more relevant, less fragmented, and stimulating experience (Jacobs, p. 10).

What is its purpose?

The purpose of this approach is to dissolve the boundaries of areas of study and encourage learning across the curriculum. Educators must develop a plan where they can see the natural areas for integration and develop thematic units. Student learning outcomes should include a well-rounded education where critical thinking and transfer of knowledge is evident with the school and the outside world. A constructivist approach to learning where creative thinking processes are developed within a meaningful context will enhance the student's education and encourage lifelong learning.

How do I plan and teach an interdisciplinary unit?

Develop a plan and use the Interdisciplinary Concept Model (Jacobs and Borland 1986) as a guide.

  1. Choose a topic-concepts such as observations, patterns, light, revolution, humor, flight, pioneers, the future, and world hunger have proven highly effective (Jacobs).
  2. Brainstorm for ideas that can be organized onto an interdisciplinary concept model. This model has the theme in the center and the subject areas are explored in relation to the theme.
  3. Guiding questions are developed to serve as scope and sequence. The questions are general and should transcend discipline lines (Jacobs p.60).

After the questions have been developed the activities that explore the questions can be developed. Hayes Jacobs (1989) recommends that Bloom's Taxonomy can be used to develop a matrix that ensures higher-level thought processes.

4. There are also activity plans that can be used to develop activities.

  • Unit: Habitat:1. Do birds come to our park?
  • Knowledge: Identify birds in our park
  • Comprehension: Observe bird behavior
  • Application: Chart the species
  • Analysis: Compare the behavior
  • Synthesis: Build a birdfeeder
  • Evaluation: Appraise its effect

FIGURE 5.6 (Jacobs p.65)


GRADE: ____________

TEAM: ____________________












An integrated interdisciplinary unit for grade two
This unit of study will focus on key concepts from the following subject areas:
Language Arts

Grade two students will study habitats.(Science Core Unit Habitats)
They will explore the large park next to the school once a week from September to December. (key concepts for science- C3 - observing and describingin Grade Two, C4 - working cooperatively in Grade Two, E2 - using natural environments in Grade Two. They will list and describe any birds that they see - C7- using numbers in Grade Two)

In mathematics grade two students will do the following:
D4-design classifications and sort data (e.g. bird count)
D6-diplay data using picture graphs
D10-understand the concept of probability
N2-recognize that adding one quantity to another increases the total

In Language Arts grade two students will work on the knowledge objectives:
oracy & literacy (media-Power Point Presentation) research & presentation

How can I adapt it?

There are a variety of instructional strategies that can be used to individualize instruction. Students who help develop the unit can also chose themes that are of particular interest to them and their peers. Teachers can also develop activities that are used across the continuum of academic levels.

Assessment & Evaluation Considerations

The evaluation standards can include level of performance criteria as outlined in the various the discipline subject areas. Rubrics that evaluate completion of various activities can used by the teachers to interpret the students' progress.

Teacher Resources


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