Interdisciplinary Study

Interdisciplinary Study


Course Description

History, concepts and main theories of key disciplines. Topics of study are selected from those of science, social sciences and humanities. An integration of knowledge in order to create new perspectives. Basic practice in systematic investigation involving observation, reading, data searching, gathering and analyzing, practical training, drawing conclusions, and making a presentation.

How this course began

In 2008, the university asked me to design a new course called "Introduction to Interdisciplinary Study". The course description had been approved by the main campus and the rest was up to me.

I understood that the aim of the course was to empower new students with analytical and problem-solving skills required for coursework and self learning, including basic study habits, study skills, and reading and writing strategies.

In order to set a conceptual foundation for the course, I researched and incorporated the deep history and fundamental concepts behind the humanities, social science, science and technology, and applied and professional fields.

The course also needed to introduce research methodologies, including the investigation, write-up, and presentation of a basic research paper on a selected topic.

Five concepts of Interdisciplinary Study

After eight years of teaching Interdisciplinary Studies, I believe that it is the ultimate course to provide students with a better understanding of the university environment and encourage academic professionalism. The very idea of interdisciplinary study contains diverse concepts for the history of institutional education, the branches of knowledge, past and current trends in research, and life-long learning.

I approach this course through five broad concepts:

  1. Critical thinking
  2. Contemporary study skills
  3. Methodologies of study and research
  4. History and nature of the disciplines of study
  5. The interrelated aspects of education and learning

The Maragrita Philosophica The first interdisciplinary textbook

I chose the Maragrita Philosophica [pdf] (the philosophic pearl) as starting point for this course to provide historical perspective and imagination.

The Margarita is a magnificently illustrated encyclopedia compiled in 1503 by a Carthusian monk named Gregor Reisch (c.1467-1525). Reisch produced what is essentially the world’s first interdisciplinary textbook, covering all seven liberal arts and providing appropriate background across disciplines and courses.

Widely used as a university textbook in the early sixteenth century, particularly in Germany, it is a book of historical significance and sheds light on university curriculum and collective scientific knowledge at the close of the Middle Ages, 500-600 years ago.

Separated into twelve chapters, Maragrita Philosophica covers traditional subjects of the trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric) and quadrivium (arithmetic, music, geometry, astronomy); and four chapters address natural philosophy, including the elements, meteorology, alchemy, the plant and animal kingdoms, optics and memory. The final sections and topics include heaven, hell, purgatory; and the book concludes with a chapter on moral philosophy, reflecting the period when church, state and education were closely integrated.

The Margarita Philosophica | Reich, 1503 | Click to enlarge

10 Core Assignments

I developed 10 key assignments for this course to supplement lectures, class assignments and activities, and homework.

  1. Student Schedule: Using the monthly calendar provided in the coursebook, students keep a personal study schedule with important dates and details for their assignments. A study schedule should contain a student’s class schedule, assignment due dates, appointments, study group meetings, and extracurricular activities. Keeping a monthly schedule is a life-long organization skill.
  2. Word Bank: Using the pages provided in the coursebook, students create their own vocabulary list. The Word Bank should be at least 2 pages (with 2 columns per page). Vocabulary should be focused on course content, especially the Humanities, Social Sciences, Physical and Natural Sciences, and Technology. Keeping a Word Bank is a life-long study skill and students are suggested to build a digital version for future learning.
  3. Curriculum Vitae (CV): Using the template and examples provided in the coursebook, students construct a personal CV. The CV should be 1 to 2 pages and identify a student’s special qualities and attributes. By identifying and documenting one’s education, background, and accomplishments, students gain a sense of self-worth and prepare for their futures as young professionals.
  4. University Mapping: As an exercise in experiential learning, students go beyond the classroom to explore the university campus. Students may photograph, video, conduct face to face interviews, and use the internet to identify the history, faculties, departments, and degree programs of PSU. The focus of this project to instill the benefit of experiential learning and to make connections with the campus and the disciplines of study.
  5. Library Assignment: Learning to locate, reference, and cite materials in your studies are essential to university and academic professionalism. Students complete the library assignment sheet provided in the coursebook as part of their mastery of library resources, including locating and referencing books, journals, and digital materials. University library resources include subscriptions to journals and databases and are available to students free of charge.
  6. Environmental Studies: Through an interdisciplinary approach, students share contemporary news and engage in critical thinking toward Environmental Studies. Subjects include current environment issues, such as climate change and tourism, and pinpoint the disciplines of study in a global context.
  7. History of English: English is emerging as the key international language. It is the first language in numerous countries and an important second language in many others. Through lecture, discussion, and an in-class assignment, students discover the history, development, and adaptability of the English language, and how different languages influenced English. Stem-words, root-words, prefixes, and suffixes come to life as students realize the language’s history and nature.
  8. Advanced Searching, Downloading and Organizing Digital Materials: Students develop and apply skills to locate, review, qualify, save, and organize academic information, including journal articles. The assignment is essential for literature reviews and serves to support the individual research paper project due at the end of the semester.
  9. Individual Research Paper: Students learn how to write a 10-page research paper. Topics are academic in nature, focused on the disciplines of study, and need approval from the course lecturer. Research papers follow the research project guidelines and formatting requirements provided in the coursebook. Referencing follows APA Style.
  10. Research Presentation: Students gain practical experience in public speaking and presentation skills through arranging a presentation based on their individual research paper. Presentations are given in PowerPoint (approximately 10 slides). Students learn to be brief, informative, and deliver a presentation in 10 minutes.