Interdisciplinary Learning from a Student’s Perspective

Interdisciplinary Learning from a Student’s Perspective

Marlene Hidalgo (New York City College of Technology, City University of New York, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2214-2.ch001


This chapter provides a retrospective look at my experiences during an interdisciplinary course at an urban university. Course format and objectives allowed for a varied experience by combining multiple learning methodologies and opportunities. A focus is given to two class assignments that illustrate the process of integrating insights from disparate disciplines through critical thinking, creativity, and teamwork. Despite the variability and unpredictability of individual experience, the review provides evidence for the unique challenges and distinct advantages of interdisciplinary learning.
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Case Description

The demands of interdisciplinary learning for “Weird Science: Interpreting and Redefining Humanity” focused on advanced research and argumentation. It extended the instructional goals of a typical college writing course to tackle a very dense question: what does it mean to be human? I will use my experience in completing the final term paper to illustrate a few of the distinguishing features of research of a complex topic. The integration of technology in the curriculum provided additional learning opportunities that I will explore in an analysis of the group project and presentation.

Course Outline

Course lecture topics fell under one of two main themes, being human and being virtually human, each theme covering the first and second half the semester, respectively. After an introduction to the course objectives and requirements, the guest speaker led the first lecture discussion on the impact of race on perspectives of humanity. The definition of humanness was explored in the second lecture with a focus on metaphysics and epistemology. Students were then presented a review of cell biology and genetics to supplement readings of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene. This was followed by discussions on the related topic of medical and technological interventions in the body and the ethical implications they generate. The first part of the course ended with an examination of the social perspective on being human. It was complemented by readings of Karl Marx and a showing of the animated documentary The Story of Stuff.

The second half of the semester emphasized the technological perspective of the course’s theme. A greater part of class time was concentrated on the group project, which involved computer-assisted workshops to build a simulated conception of future humanity. Prior to the workshops, however, there were a few lectures that covered various topics in technology. The first invited speaker led a discussion on artificial intelligence, free will, and chaos theory. Final lectures expanded on readings of posthumanism, quantum mechanics with additional instruction on climate change and spirituality.

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