Putting Interdisciplarity to work for college students outside the classroom

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I recently read an article by Sarah Knapp & Renee Merges (2017) An Evaluation of Three Interdisciplinary Social Science Events Outside of the College Classroom, College Teaching, 65:3, 137-141, DOI:10.1080/87567555.2016.1244655, that really summed up the advantages of bringing different disciplines together.

The article broke down three different interdisciplinary events where students from the criminal justice and psychology field participated.  The three separate exercises  were using a “synthetic interdisciplinary approach”, while looking into occurrences of bystander apathy as related to the Kitty Genovese tragedy; participating in a competitive game similar to “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”; and a panel discussion on mental health and criminal justice with professionals from various fields.

Following each exercise,  students answered a series of questions using the “Likert-scale”, from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), and two open ended questions.  The results are found in three Themes.

Theme 1: “Students enjoyed having the opportunity to meet and work with students from other disciplines.”     Theme 2: “Students felt that the structure of each event optimized their ability to learn from each other and from experts in each field.”  Theme 3:  “Students found the activities to be peer-centered and fun, yet appreciated the serious nature of the events that they were celebrating.”

Overall, the students who participated in the exercise(s) were happy to work with people outside their field.  The exercises brought out an overlap between disciplines, and it helped show potential multidisciplinary career paths.   Students felt “challenged and excited” to learn from each other.  Instructors took away the importance of collaboration, and value of their peer’s experience.   In addition, professors discovered a budget friendly approach to a non-traditional learning style, and an opportunity to get away from the routine of lecture based learning.

I found the article very relevant of today’s workforce.    The article reminds me of fun ways to integrate and intersect disciplines, along with the value of attending professional conferences and community events.

I think applying these sort of learning opportunities throughout college academia would better prepare students for career decisions and choices, increase professional development throughout universities, and widen perspectives of college majors and disciplines.

3 thoughts on “Putting Interdisciplarity to work for college students outside the classroom”

  1. This also reminds me of the thrill of working across fields. I am not sure if that fun comes from the fact that there are so many more new connections to be made (even at the more elementary levels of scholarship) than there are in single, silo-ized disciplines, or if it’s just that working with competing perspectives yields more surprises and unexpected outcomes, but this post really reminds me of the fun I have when I work on interdisciplinary collaborations!

  2. Really interesting article. Hopefully someday Plymouth State will have more activites like this so that students can engage with different majors and fields of study. Great post!

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