Date of this Version
Published in Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture, Volume 12, Number 3 (2012), pp. 405–424; doi: 10.1215/15314200-1625235
Advocates of interdisciplinary teaching and learning in higher education suggest that interdisciplinary courses “promise a wide range of desirable educational outcomes for students” (Newell 1994: 35). These outcomes include enhanced affective and cognitive abilities, increased understanding of multiple perspectives, greater appreciation for ambiguity, and superior capacities for creative thinking, among others (35). Despite claims about the possibilities interdisciplinary learning offers, we have few examples of how faculty from different disciplines work together to create interdisciplinary classroom environments where such outcomes can occur. In short, more examples of how faculty from different disciplines actually develop, engage, and revise interdisciplinary pedagogies with one another are needed in interdisciplinary scholarship.
In theorizing interdisciplinary pedagogy throughout the remainder of this piece, we hope to avoid what Shari Stenberg (2005) notes are tendencies in English studies discourse on pedagogy — treating it too abstractly, as a theory devised apart from teaching and learning interactions, or too simplistically, as methods or procedures devised for and applied to students in a classroom. In attempts to do so, we reflect on and theorize from the local contexts of our work and, in particular, examine the moments of difficulty we experienced in the process of planning and teaching this course. Rather than tell a celebratory tale of interdisciplinary collaboration, we demonstrate how developing and sustaining our interdisciplinary relationships — both in and outside the course itself — often proved challenging. We have found reflecting together on the discomfort we experienced to be a valuable, knowledge-making process of inquiry. In the end, we suggest that interdisciplinary pedagogy does indeed have the potential to open up exciting opportunities for teaching and learning in higher education. In our experience, interdisciplinary pedagogy sponsored departmental curricular revisions, new institutional forms and forums for conversations about teaching and learning, and new modes of disciplinary inquiry and participation.