Historical Development of the Interdisciplinary Studies

Historical Development of the Interdisciplinary Studies

Naifa Eid AI-Saleem (Sultan Qaboos University, Oman)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3878-3.ch014
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Abstract

In a fast-changing world, which depends on science and technology, it is very hard for disciplines to remain isolated and hide away from each other. When disciplines are isolated, students' outcomes and achievements are affected negatively. A graduate will be equipped with multi skills, when disciplines interact with each other instead of just one skill when a particular discipline exists in isolation. To address this problem of graduates, many universities offer “interdisciplinary studies”. This chapter discusses the “interdisciplinary studies” and their history. To discover the history of the “interdisciplinary studies”, the current study aims to explore the definition of the “interdisciplinary studies”, as well as their historical development. This study is a theoretical study designed to trace the history of “interdisciplinary studies”. The study adopted a qualitative research methodology, as the essential purpose of the qualitative methodology is to understand reality. The findings revealed that the literature is full of studies that define “interdisciplinary studies”, and all the studies that related to the “interdisciplinary studies” agreed that the “interdisciplinary studies” involve researchers from different institutes and disciplines to solve a problem that is hard to solve by a single discipline. With respect to historical development of “interdisciplinary studies”, the study found that, as a term, it appeared in the 20th century, but as a practice, it is imbedded in the work of old societies, where several millennia ago, the Mesopotamians, the Egyptians, and the Greeks put interdisciplinary into practice.
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Background

Researchers from different disciplines use different terminology to understand “interdisciplinary studies”. For example, we hear about “interdisciplinary studies”, “multidisciplinary” as well as “the study of interdisciplinary”. In this literature review, we will focus on “interdisciplinary studies”. i.e. the “definition of interdisciplinary studies”.

The study by McGonagill (1995) titled “Defining, developing, and modeling interdisciplinary curriculum” attempts to define the interdisciplinary curriculum starting by defining the “interdisciplinary” itself. The problem of the study was that those teachers who are under increasing pressure from district and building administrators are expected to develop interdisciplinary units. Unfortunately, neither they nor local administrators are able to describe interdisciplinary curriculum in specific terms. Therefore, this study analyzed the theoretical foundations of interdisciplinary curriculum as a means of providing a definition for such a curriculum. A conceptual definition of interdisciplinary curriculum was developed based on a systematic review of the structure of knowledge, conceptualizations of curriculum, and curricular terms that are often used synonymously with interdisciplinary curriculum. This conceptual definition provided the foundation for a multi-step process to create curriculum that addresses the critical attributes of the definition and enabled developers to distinguish it from other curricular terms.

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