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Wednesday, June 22 • 15:45 - 16:35
CON04.08 - Dodging the disciplinary divide: Blending people, concepts and learning

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Traditionally, students learn concepts and principles in a disciplinary manner that can limit their ability to see and make important connections between disciplines. Integrative, rather than siloed, thinking is essential for exploring larger, societal problems that transcend disciplinary boundaries, and for understanding how different disciplines work together to solve these problems. Integrative thinking must be learned, practiced, and applied by students to change the way students approach societal issues (Spelt, Biemans, Tobi, Luning & Mulder, 2009). To help students develop this way of thinking, we need to design curricula differently. At York University, a dynamic, inter-departmental team is designing a first-year integrated science experience where students are introduced to the same traditional concepts, but in an integrated and team-based manner (Michaelson & Sweet, 2008). While the process has been informed by a backwards design approach, additional elements have been required to reflect the integrative approach to teaching and learning (McTighe & Wiggins, 2012). These elements include developing overarching learning outcomes that are not specific to any one discipline, making connections between disciplinary concepts, identifying central themes that encompass all relevant disciplines, finding appropriate classroom space, and deciding on supportive pedagogical approaches. These instructional approaches include a flipped and blended classroom approach to minimize in-class didactic teaching and make space for higher-order activities; simultaneous team teaching to model how disciplinarians interact and approach a particular topic or issue; and team-based learning in an active learning classroom to develop students’ collaborative skills and promote their active exploration of material (Faculty Focus, 2014). In this workshop session, participants will work with the facilitators and each other to achieve the following outcomes: develop interdisciplinary learning outcomes, identify strategies for making disciplinary connections, and consider how to implement a team-based approach for supporting integrated curricula using small- and large-group discussions, and guided handouts.


1. Spelt, E.J.H., Biemans, H.J.A., Tobi, H., Luning, P.A., & Mulder, M. (2009). Teaching and learning in interdisciplinary higher education: A systematic review. Educ Psychol Rev, 21, 365-378.

2. Michaelson, L.K. & Sweet, M. (2008). The essential elements of team-based learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 116, 7-27.

3. McTighe, J. & Wiggins, G. (2012). Understanding by Design® framework. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/siteASCD/publications/UbD_WhitePaper0312.pdf.

4. Faculty Focus. (2014). Blended and flipped: Exploring new models for effective teaching & learning. Madison, WI: Magna Publications.

avatar for Tamara Kelly

Tamara Kelly

Professor, Teaching Stream (Biology), York University
I'm interested in teaching methods that support and promote collaboration and community in both large and smaller classrooms; help students improve their communication skills; and promote metacognition and reflection.

Lauren Wallar

Lauren Wallar is a PhD candidate in Population Medicine at the University of Guelph and an Educational Development Specialist in the Faculty of Science at York University. Lauren is a co-recipients of the 2015-16 Career and Teaching Development Fellowship at the University of Gue... Read More →

Wednesday June 22, 2016 15:45 - 16:35 EDT
UCC 61