knowledge can sometimes lead to deep misunderstanding of new information. Departments and faculty need to utilize this educational research to guide curricular and pedagogical reform so that transfer between disciplines is promoted. This would promote immediate improvement in interdisciplinary education without need for abrupt reorganization of departments.


To develop an interdisciplinary approach to teaching, faculty must consider both content and pedagogy. For example, biology course content would be examined to find topics that require quantitative skills on the part of researchers. These could be examined to see how the quantitative material could be incorporated into the course, and discussion with the mathematics or other departments could ensue to see how these are being taught. This would be followed by considering, in turn, other ways that chemistry, physics, computer science, engineering, and mathematics can intersect with the topics in the course. Such changes may be difficult, but interdisciplinary teaching and interdisciplinary collaborations produce multiple benefits. Establishing partnerships with colleagues in other departments can lead to collaborations in research as well as teaching. Initial teaching of, for example, a module on the fluid dynamics of blood flow in a physiology course could be done by a colleague in physics or math. For the biology faculty, incorporating such a module would be an opportunity to learn the underlying physical science and mathematics and potentially learn the skills necessary to subsequently teach the module independently. By starting with small modules and focusing on the transfer of disciplinary material, there would be minimal change in curriculum, the biology faculty could keep the course coherent, and the students would gradually become accustomed to the teaching approach.

Further interdisciplinary teaching can be attempted by the complete restructuring of a course or the revamping of the curriculum. Successful redesign of courses and curricula (as opposed to modules) requires a much larger investment of faculty time, departmental encouragement, and significant support from the college or university administration. Faculty must master new material, delete material from preexisting courses to accommodate the new material, and adapt their teaching style to the new approach. In almost all institutions, systemic change in the curriculum lies beyond the reach of individual faculty members. In addition, sustaining change requires the creation of an institutional culture in which faculty

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