Saturday, March 22, 2008

Interdisciplinary Learning or The Big Schema

Interdisciplinary learning is something that I think a lot of colleges, especially liberal arts schools, try to teach. This is why people have requirements outside of their specialty fields and why my school demands that you take at least ten credits in three different schools (i.e. math and science, humanities, social sciences, arts). My university in particular is unique in that out degrees read no major, because we do not have any, all of our seminars require a major research project, and if we opt to do a thesis it MUST be interdisciplinary. This form of education creates well rounded people who exit college with out a marketable degree but with the ability to think creatively.

A schema is the way the mind groups and maps out ideas. The term is used in many different forms but is often related to memory. I have encountered this term in reading various psychologists works, but I have personally come to associate the term with interdisciplinary learning. I learned early on to make connections between different fields of studies. I connect my love of jazz music to public policy by researching race relations in the history of jazz. I found my love of literacy in researching the spread of books and scientific concepts with the rise of the printing press. Memory was intrinsically linked to oral tradition and memoirs with coping skills. As I narrowed in on one field, psychology, I further saw connections in every field back to my primary. Everything began to get connected in my schema, lines flowing and overflowing between each topic.

Teaching is more than just the alphabet and counting but a schema on its own. Many people have a flat perception of the job of a teacher. Being truly invested in teaching and education is more than just showing up and 'teaching' the students. As a teacher you are first helping to create those schema in children, teaching them not just how to read or history but how to think about thinking. A teacher needs to have knowledge of psychology in order to understand the behaviors of students, even in a regular classroom. A teacher needs to understand public policy in order to understand unions, standardized testing, and their contract. Teachers need to understand math, because lets be honest budgeting is an important feature of a teachers life in and out of the classroom. Teaching is not static and is not solitary it is connected to many fields and the best teachers out there should aptly be named 'Educators' instead of teachers.

I wish I could draw an image of how I think about schema, but chances are it would only make sense to me. Maybe you can take the time now to think about your field of choice with an interdisciplinary eye and create your schema. Finding the connections could help illuminate new ideas.

1 comment:

NYC Educator said...

I think teaching involves a lot of seduction, encouraging kids to do things (like reading) and hoping to fool them into enjoying them, and pursuing them on their own. Perhaps that's the same thing as tying things to a schema, but I had an Educational Psychology professor who used that word frequently, and I get a headache whenever I think about him.