Recent decades have witnessed systematic adoption of interdisciplinary learning among several learning institutions. Contemporary interdisciplinary learning programs are characterised by comprehensive integration of multidisciplinary competence and knowledge from several scholars and professionals who have diverse backgrounds (Entwistle, & Ramsden, 2003). Consistent exposure to interdisciplinary learning thoughts and perceptions make learners develop advanced epistemological beliefs, meta-cognitive skills and critical thinking ability. Furthermore, the model enables individuals to understand the interaction of diverse perspectives that are derived from different disciplines. Examining the concept of interdisciplinary learning is essential in building knowledge about its significance, problems and effect on pupil learning. This script focuses on the importance of implementing interdisciplinary learning in Scottish primary schools. Moreover, the paper expounds on the challenges that are encountered in implementing interdisciplinary learning programs.
Interdisciplinary learning is essential because it focuses on the connection and interaction between conventional discrete disciplines including arts, language, sciences and mathematics (Miller & Boix Mansilla, 2004). Consequently, scholars promote the concept of interdisciplinary learning by developing ideas from more than one discipline (Davis, 1995). Interdisciplinary learning provides students and professionals with a multidimensional approach of raising questions, creating products, and tackling emerging problems. Particularly, the model provides comprehensive explanations on emerging issues in the society (Stein, Connell, & Gardner, 2008).
The core aim of interdisciplinary learning initiative in Scotland primary school system was to enhance productive development in the country’s education sector. Particularly, the initiative targeted providing a more coherent, flexible, and enriched curriculum. The changes that associated with interdisciplinary learning program intended to improve the quality of teaching and learning in the country’s primary schools. Moreover, the program was aimed at enhancing the achievement of the objectives and goals of children and young people in the country.
Why implement Interdisciplinary Learning
Interdisciplinary learning initiative is an educational program fosters remarkable improvement in various disciplines. The process of designing and implementing interdisciplinary learning strategy involves cooperation of all players in the educations sectors. Interdisciplinary learning unites teachers and other professionals who collaborate to create a lively learning experience for students (Youngblood, 2007). The involvement of players from various professional backgrounds also plays an essential role in establishing new strategies and technologies that are capable of implementing the designed interdisciplinary learning programs (Lyon, 2002). In Scottish primary, interdisciplinary learning strategies have involved the contribution and ideas of various stakeholders including students and their parents. Consequently, the existing interdisciplinary learning programs have proved to be exceptionally productive in the improvement of both class performance and professional competence among students. Consequently, the idea of implementing interdisciplinary learning programs in Scottish primary schools is prompted by the need of improving students’ academic and professional productivity, and competence (Nikitina, 2002).
Furthermore, the implementation of interdisciplinary learning enhances the nourishment of the contents that are offered by multiple disciplines. The incorporation of different ideas and perceptions among different discipline assists in the improvement of the level of competence among scholars and students (Davies & Devlin, 2007). Teachers also benefit from the interdisciplinary learning programs because the strategy enables them develop knowledge of diverse subject areas (Field, Lee, & Field, 2004). The implementation of interdisciplinary learning programs also enhances understanding and appreciation of expertise and knowledge of other members of staffs. Interdisciplinary learning programs facilitate teamwork because their implementation requires participation of several professionals. Moreover, interdisciplinary learning initiative improves teachers planning and evaluation skills. This is because interdisciplinary learning initiatives engage all stakeholders at various levels of their implementation (Stein, Connell, & Gardner, 2008).
According to Livengood (2002), the implementation of interdisciplinary learning in Scottish primary school had the prime aim of benefiting students. A multidisciplinary model is essential because teachers’ knowledge of the concepts that are used in different disciplines is important in improving students’ performance and competence. Furthermore, knowledge of concepts utilized in different disciplines reinforces student’s learning in a meaningful and powerful way. Students also understand the manner in which knowledge and skills in one discipline can be used in another discipline by participating and observing various interdisciplinary activities in their schools. Interestingly, the implementation of interdisciplinary learning programs has enabled student understand how different skills are utilized in real life experience (Youngblood, 2007).
Humphreys, Post, & Ellis (1991) notes that the implementation of interdisciplinary learning initiatives has provided an effective road map for improving students’ competency and educational efficiency. The Scottish primary schools interdisciplinary learning initiatives offer a clear guideline on effective means of integrating concepts from different disciplines in a curriculum (Lyon, 2002). Moreover, the Scottish department of education requires teachers to have the skills of incorporating strategies and concepts in all disciplines in order to improve their competence level. The implementation of interdisciplinary learning initiative is also expected to enhance enthusiasm and learning motivation among students. This is because the initiative offers a platform that provides students with the opportunity of applying the skills and knowledge learnt from one discipline to advance their understanding in the other discipline (Davies & Devlin, 2007). The implementation of interdisciplinary learning programs has increased students’ determinations and commitment towards attaining higher standards of education. Various studies have confirmed that interdisciplinary learning programs enhance new thinking and creativity (Field, Lee, & Field, 2004).
The adoption of interdisciplinary learning programs has promoted the emergence of internalized organization of knowledge or knowledge structure. Various terms including conceptual framework, mental model and schemas describes the idea of knowledge structure. However, all these constructs represent central tenet of cognitive science despite having different terminologies (Lyon, 2002). Knowledge structure helps students to determine how and when a set of declarative facts are applied in different situations. Although knowledge structures is not exclusively an interdisciplinary states of affair, interdisciplinary learning initiatives helps in creating meaningful connection between concepts from different disciplines. Moreover, interdisciplinary approaches help in facilitating personalized process that enhances effective organization of the learnt information and competence (Livengood, 2002).
The implementation of interdisciplinary learning programs plays a considerable role in facilitating higher-order cognitive processing by motivating students to participate in quality learning (Wineburg, 2001). Often, students tend to identify meaning of the identified concepts, reflect on the learnt components and internalize the acquired knowledge by creating personal understanding through deep learning. The implementation of interdisciplinary learning initiative in Scottish primary school is entails assessing the significant and long-standing alteration in intellectual growth and development (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2001).
Moreover, interdisciplinary learning programs enhance critical thinking among students and teachers. Studies have indicated that students with the ability to think critically have skills for assessing, gathering, synthesizing and analyzing information. In interdisciplinary learning programs, students are required to identify the bases of their argument by relying on the facts from other disciplines. Apart from enhancing critical thinking and cognitive processing, interdisciplinary learning initiative in Scottish primary school has enhanced the development of students’ meta-cognitive skills (Humphreys, Post, & Ellis, 1991).
Challenges faced by practitioners in implementation of this initiative
Initially, the implementation of interdisciplinary learning initiative in Scotland was an expensive process that required a lot of resources and skills. Consequently, the initiative encountered a challenge of inadequate resources and work force (Wineburg, 2001). Moreover, moving from a disciplinary oriented teaching program to interdisciplinary learning has proved to be very costly and a complicated process. This because most teachers are familiar and well acquitted with empirical practices and methodologies of related discipline. Therefore, acquiring the required cross-disciplinary skills and competence has turned out to be time consuming and stressful (Lyon, 2002).
Furthermore, most teachers in Scottish education systems are familiar with task modeling which is an instructional initiative that supports observation learning (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2001). Task modeling is in most cases used in disciplinary oriented systems. Consequently, teachers were forced to undergo a costly new method of pedagogy for successful adopting of interdisciplinary learning initiative in Scottish primary schools. The process of training teachers and school administrators also required a lot of time and resources. In some cases, the program was ineffective due to lack of skilled work force to implement the plan fully. Moreover, some teachers were unwilling to adopt the program. This is because some argued that the program interfered with the school daily operations and activities. The government was compelled to conduct several seminars and conferences with an aim of informing teachers about the importance of the programs in order to promote full implementation of the program (Jacobs, 1999).
The program was also faced by the challenge of authorship and disciplinary status. Some student and teachers felt that some disciples were inferior compared to others. The feeling of inferiority interfered with the decision making process. Moreover, some teachers failed completely to participate in the entire process of implementing interdisciplinary learning initiative (Wineburg, 2001). There was also communication challenge in the implementations process because the model relied on the available weekly report review. Moreover, the existing disciplinary status conflicts have affected the performance and productivity of students and the education sector in general. The program gives privileges to some discipline that has increased the conflict between different disciplines. Consequently, in spite of the effort of implement the interdisciplinary learning initiative fully, some aspects were very complicated to change and this interfered with the plan of achieving the programs goals and objectives (Ryan, 2004).
Furthermore, teachers’ disciplinary boundaries and authorship introduced a major complication that affected the implementations of the interdisciplinary learning initiative. Disciplinary boundary difficulty limited teachers and students assuming interdisciplinary learning exercise and experience (Wineburg, 2001). Furthermore, the initiative encountered a challenge of the existence of diverse norm and culture between different disciplines. The process of integrating norms and cultures that existed between different disciplines has challenged the implementation of the strategy within the Scottish primary education system (Jacobs, 1999).
Moreover, different disciplines have defined interdisciplinary learning initiative in different ways. Lack of common definition of the terms and concepts that explains interdisciplinary learning initiative has posed a serious challenge in the entire implementation process (Ryan, 2004). Moreover, the implementers have also encountered severe difficulty in obtaining a consensus among stakeholders on a common definition of the term interdisciplinary learning. Lack of common consensus on the meaning and usage of the interdisciplinary learning terms, the initiative have encountered difficulties in securing institutional and financial support (Wineburg, 2001).
Impact of this initiative on pupil learning
The interdisciplinary learning initiative in Scottish primary schools has increased pupils level of competence and learning. Engaging students in interdisciplinary learning process helps students develop problem solving skills, insights, knowledge, self-efficacy, self-confidence and passion for learning. Moreover, the interdisciplinary learning exploration and instructions has played a critical role in promoting pupils competence levels. The interdisciplinary learning initiative has also served as a tool for enabling pupils realize their long-term goals and aspirations. Statistics highlights clearly that interdisciplinary learning initiative in Scottish primary education has played a recommendable role in improving cognitive ability among pupils. This means that the interdisciplinary learning initiative has realized higher outcome in improving pupils’ performance and competence when compared to conventional system of education in Scottish primary school education (Klein, 2000).
The interdisciplinary learning initiative in Scottish primary schools has also enabled pupils to identify bias and uncover preconceptions. Interdisciplinary learning instructions have helped pupils to understand their presumption on the current situations and the factors that led to the emergence of the existing situations (Lyon, 2002). The interdisciplinary learning initiative in Scottish primary schools has played a very essential role in assisting pupils overcome their preconceived notions on education. The plan to overcome preconceived notion is achieved by identifying the causes of such notions and by introducing pupils to subject matters from various perspectives that challenges the existing notions of various disciplines (Brew, 2008).
In Scottish primary education system, the interdisciplinary learning initiative has used two main methods in addressing preconceived notions among primary school pupils. Initially, the initiative has instituted a plan of helping pupils to identify insights from several disciplines that results to the interpretation of a certain perception (Boix-Mansilla, Gardner, & Miller, 2000). Secondly, the interdisciplinary learning instructions have helped pupils develop their capability of integrating ideas and concepts from different disciplines into a broader conceptual framework of evaluation and analyses. After dealing with pre-existing notions, pupils develop the ability to learn new facts and are more open to learning several methodologies that promote and advance understanding. Alternatively, teachers spend most of their time in exploring new facts and issues that can promote significant learning and understanding (Davies & Devlin, 2007).
Interdisciplinary learning initiative in Scottish primary school has also advanced cognitive development and critical thinking. Existing numerical facts highlights that interdisciplinary learning initiative in Scotland has played a vital role in developing pupil cognitive ability, brain-based skills and effective mental processes that are relevant in executing classroom activities (Brew, 2008). Moreover, interdisciplinary learning programs have also helped pupils acquire perspective-taking technique that enable them understand various viewpoints on a particular subject. The interdisciplinary learning program has also helped pupils appreciate the existing differences between various disciplines and the most effective means of solving emerging complications (Boix-Mansilla, Gardner, & Miller, 2000).
Moreover, interdisciplinary learning programs ensure that the Scottish primary school pupils are in a position of understanding different regulations and rules that guides viable evidences. The understanding of specific rules that guides viable evidence necessitates broader understanding of concepts that are used in various disciplines. The Scottish interdisciplinary learning initiative has led to the development of structural knowledge among pupils. Most pupils in Scottish primary school system have acquired procedural and declarative knowledge through interdisciplinary learning. The declarative and procedural process knowledge is essential in solving complicated problems among pupils. The Scottish interdisciplinary learning initiative has also necessitated effective integration of conflicting insights from different disciplines (Boix Mansilla & Duraising, 2007).
In the light of the above analysis, it is clear that interdisciplinary learning programs are incredibly essential in improving the performance and competence of students in various learning institutions. Interdisciplinary learning initiatives are also vital in necessitating holistic understanding of different concepts and terms. The application of interdisciplinary learning initiative in learning institutions has enhanced broader understanding of the rules and regulations that guide different disciplines. However, the implementation of interdisciplinary learning initiative in Scottish primary school has faced several challenges and complications despite its outstanding advantages. The process of implementing interdisciplinary learning initiatives in Scottish primary school system has faced financial, procedural and logistical complications. Consequently, stakeholders spearheading the implementation of interdisciplinary learning initiative should identify complications associated with the program, and develop a strategic plan for managing them in order to attain ultimate benefits from plan.
Boix-Mansilla, V., & Duraising, E. (2007). Targeted Assessment of Students’ Interdisciplinary Work: An Empirically Grounded Framework Proposal. Journal of Higher Education, 78(2), 215-237.
Boix-Mansilla, V., Gardner, H., & Miller, W. (2000). On Disciplinary Lenses and Interdisciplinary Work. Interdisciplinary Curriculum: Challenges to Implementation. New York, NY: Teacher College Press.
Brew, A. (2008). Disciplinary and interdisciplinary affiliations of experienced researchers. Higher Education, 56(4), 423-438.
Davies, M., & Devlin, M. (2007). Interdisciplinary Higher Education: Implications for Teaching and Learning. Melbourne: Centre for the Study of Higher Education.
Davis, J. R. (1995). Interdisciplinary courses and team teaching. Phoenix, AZ: American Council on Education and the Oryx Press
Entwistle, N., & Ramsden, P. (2003). Understanding student learning. London: Croom Helm.
Field, M., Lee, R., & Field, M. L. (2004). Assessing interdisciplinary learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 58, 69–84.
Humphreys, A. H., Post, T. R., & Ellis, A. K. (1991). Interdisciplinary methods: A thematic approach. Santa Monica, CA: Goodyear
Jacobs, H. H. (1999). The growing need for interdisciplinary curriculum content. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Klein, J. T. (2000). Interdisciplinary: History, Theory, and Practice. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
Livengood, J. M. (2002). Students’ motivational goals and beliefs about effort and ability as they relate to college academic success. Research in Higher Education, 33, 247–261.
Lyon, A. (2002). Interdisciplinary: Giving up Territory. College English, 54(6), 681-693.
Miller, M., & Boix Mansilla, V. (2004). Thinking Across Perspectives and Disciplines. Interdisciplinary Studies Project, Project Zero: Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Nikitina, S. (2002). Three Strategies for Interdisciplinary Teaching: Contextualising, Conceptualising, and Problem-Solving. Project Zero: Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (2001). How college affects students: Findings and insights from twenty years of research. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Ryan, M. P. (2004). Monitoring text comprehension: individual differences in epistemological standards. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, 248–258.
Stein, Z., Connell, M., & Gardner, H. (2008). Exercising Quality Control in Interdisciplinary Education: Toward an Epistemologically Responsible Approach. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 42(3-4), 401-414.
Wineburg, S. S. (2001). On the reading of historical texts: Notes on the breach between school and academy. American Educational Research Journal, 28, 495–519.
Youngblood, D., (2007). Interdisciplinary Studies and the Bridging Disciplines: A Matter of Process. Journal of Research Practice, 3, 2, 98-123.