Rambling #7: Interdisciplinary Connections


As mentioned in Mathison & Freeman (1997) combining two or more disciplines is nothing new. I remember when I first started teaching in 1998 that there was a huge push at my school to create links to technology across our whole school. We even had afternoons set aside so that teachers could pair up and teach some aspect of technology through the use of their subjects. Twenty years later, we are still treading around this idea when in actual fact, as stated in Mulligan & Kuban (2015) we know that we want students to have diverse, interdisciplinary experiences and therefore we need to be putting this into action.

When looking at potential interdisciplinary connections, for me it is a no brainer to look at my colleagues. Our school has undergone major changes this year and we have been trying to implement interdisciplinary teaching. However, when looking at Andrews’ (1990) or Jones’ (2009) definition of this area of interest, I get the feeling that some of us have actually adapted a cross disciplinary approach rather than an interdisciplinary one. From observing classes, teachers tend to still be teaching their subject matter, rather than creating new material that focuses on the themes that we have developed for each semester in our two-year plan. Whilst some have fully collaborated and have created an engaging unit that has allowed students to share different perspectives, work collaboratively and make connections between the two subjects (Jones, 2009), others are still coming to terms to what it is that they are actually trying to do. We have all felt like first year teachers this year as never before have we had to work collaboratively with others. Of course we have department meetings, staff meeting, professional development and all those other wonderful things that we do in our spare time (cheekiness intended), but how we have taught our class has always been our thing. Working with another teacher creates a whole new ball game.

Jones (2009) quotes the wise words of Julie Klien: “Interdisciplinary teaching can be associated with problems such as “lack of ‘sufficient time for collaboration work'”, “lack of training in group dynamics”, “overlapping roles”, “territorial and status conflicts”, and “inadequate funding”. All of which have occurred this year in one way or another and have had to be dealt with. From my own personal experience, some secondary teachers can be very protective over their subject area(s) and therefore clashes can be difficult to avoid. However, my philosophy is that I am there for the students and therefore I need to put my personal feelings to the side and concentrate on what the class needs. I know, easier said than doneJ

Moving forward though, I know that I will approach interdisciplinary teaching in a different manner this year. When considering joint planning, decision making and goal setting, I have thought that the following approach may be helpful:

Joint Planning Decision Making Goal setting
Rather than fitting this in haphazardly, meetings will be arranged and set on a weekly basis from the beginning. This allows teachers to work around their school and personal commitments and also gives importance to the task that we have at hand.

All members of the group will contribute their ideas for planning and will be given the opportunity to ask questions when and where necessary.

Each member is to be made to feel welcome and that their expertise is valued.

Administrative support will be required so that we can make sure a: we are on the right track and b: what we wish to achieve is not deemed ethically viable.

Although initial and final decision making will be discussed among teachers, student voice will also need to be considered when making decisions. The module needs to be based on students’ needs and interests so that they maintain engagement.

All members will be given an opportunity to voice their ideas and should an idea not be agreed upon in the given time frame, it will be put up for discussion at the following meeting or a discussion may continue via email.


An outline will be created at the beginning of the module to ensure that necessary skills from subject areas can be taught, as based on the New Zealand Curriculum. However, we should ensure that we are teaching from the front of the curriculum, rather than the back.

Weekly goals will be set so that a focus is kept throughout the semester. Goals will be adapted according to any interruptions that may occur during semester time.

Students will also be required to set goals so that they may see how their learning is developing.

Hopefully, with having a more structured approach for 2018, and having a better idea of what interdisciplinary teaching involves, a greater number of students will buy in to what we are trying to achieve. Like I mentioned earlier, if we come back to the students and their needs, we should experience some form of success. Fingers crossed


Jones, C.(2009). Interdisciplinary approach – Advantages, disadvantages, and the future benefits of interdisciplinary studies. ESSAI7 (26), 76-81. Retrieved from http://dc.cod.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1121&context=essai

Mulligan, L. M., & Kuban, A. J. . (2015). A Conceptual Model for Interdisciplinary Collaboration. Retrieved from http://acrlog.org/2015/05/14/a-conceptual-model-for-interdisciplinary-collaboration

Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997. Retrieved from http://www.albany.edu/cela/reports/mathisonlogic12004.pdf:


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