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Interdisciplinary Approaches

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on August 8, 2006 at 1:24:39 pm

Interdisciplinary Approaches


Research shows that interdisciplinary programs succeed in ways that can be supported and enhanced by distance education. Lattuca et al. (2004) note that interdisciplinary courses provide students with many opportunities to connect new knowledge with existing knowledge, as well as to connect new knowledge with real-world contexts. Both the engagement of prior knowledge and the ability to apply new knowledge are critical to motivating learning and to meaningful course design. Lattuca et al. show that interdisciplinary courses move students from simplistic views of knowledge (where things are either right or wrong) to sophisticated views of knowledge (acknowledging multi-faceted understandings of complex issues). They note that students with sophisticated views of knowledge are more likely to self-regulate learning – an essential distance education skill.


An interdisciplinary curriculum supports complex understandings by engaging multiple intelligences. This pedagogical model allows older adults from many walks of life to build from within, developing personal approaches to course assignments. Gardner (1999) argues, “All of us possess linguistic intelligence (epitomized by the poet or orator); logical-mathematical intelligence (the scientist, the logician); musical intelligence (the composer or performer); spatial intelligence (sailor or sculptor); bodily-kinesthetic intelligence (athlete, dancer); naturalist intelligence (hunter, botanist); interpersonal intelligence (clinician, salesman); and intrapersonal intelligence (individual with a keen understanding of himself/herself). There may also be an existential intelligence that reflects humans’ propensity to pose and struggle with the enigmas of life, death, the cosmos, and fate” (p. 78). His research shows that all people possess these multiple intelligences, but not in equal measure. Individuals are most readily engaged and successful in certain modes of knowing. People can enhance their particular intelligences and alter their profile of strengths and weaknesses. An interdisciplinary approach to Education engages and enhances multiple intelligences by offering students a range of entry points.


Gardner, H. (1999). Multiple approaches to understanding. In C. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional-design theories and models. (Vol. 2., pp. 69-90). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.


Lattuca, L., L. Voight & K. Fath. (2004). Does interdisciplinarity promote learning? Theoretical support and researchable questions. The Review of Higher Education, 28 (1), 23-48. Retrieved March 18, 2005 from the ProjectMuse database.

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