This AIS link includes sample interdisciplinary syllabi and other course materials. It is intended to be useful to faculty and administrators who are new to interdisciplinary studies as well as to experienced interdisciplinarians.
Courses presented on this site have been peer-reviewed by a selection committee of the Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, using criteria embedded in Klein and Newell’s definition of interdisciplinarity (Handbook of the Undergraduate Curriculum, 1997): courses
In its early days, AIS accumulated a file of syllabi that was made available to interested faculty. This site takes that beginning into the age of technology, making such materials readily accessible to faculty and administrators via the web. We are beginning with a rather small posting, with the site expanding over time.
Why the need for this website? As interdisciplinary studies have become increasingly common nationwide, more and more discipline-trained faculty are entering interdisciplinary teaching. Whether their own convictions and interests or external nudges have led to this move, they are equally likely to be inventing their course in isolation, both from others who have created courses in that subject area and from those who have studied effective approaches to interdisciplinary teaching and learning. Thus a lot of “reinventing the wheel” takes place. Further, faculty are often working without interdisciplinary texts available, or even multidisciplinary texts that at least juxtapose materials from some of the applicable disciplines if not explicitly integrating them.
True, certain interdisciplinary areas of study such as women’s studies, American studies, and environmental studies have become so well established that texts and course materials are available. Professional associations in such fields assist in disseminating useful resources. But even in these cases faculty may be unaware of effective models of how to integrate insights from multiple disciplines in their course design, assignments, and pedagogy. And in a great many other cases, faculty lack that grounding in texts and professional associations as well. Faculty wanting to teach a course on epidemics and AIDS, or symmetry in science and art, must pull together their own course materials from here, there, and everywhere, design their own course from scratch, and explore interdisciplinary connections.
As Davis (1995) aptly points out, interdisciplinary teaching by its nature involves “inventing the subject,” as faculty work outside traditional disciplinary structures and perhaps also negotiate among differing perspectives and areas of expertise of a faculty team. Faculty now have the benefit of the useful “Guide to Interdisciplinary Syllabus Preparation” (AIS and IIS, 1996). Such inventing can be further assisted by availability of a variety of effective models demonstrating how those principles become instantiated in course design and pedagogy.
Given current web technology, faculty can use search engines to access syllabi in their area of study. However search engines turn up a huge quantity of sites of widely varying degrees of usefulness. Faculty on our campuses and at our annual conference often express interest in finding models of good practice in interdisciplinary studies.
Sharing these models has become especially timely now given the increasing importance of syllabi, nationwide, in the processes of program review and assessment. Faculty are increasingly developing their syllabi more fully, for example to make learning outcomes explicit, and are disseminating syllabi beyond students only.
This website will offer benefits to AIS members and well beyond; to both new and experienced interdisciplinarians; and to submitters as well as searchers. The syllabi can assist faculty in making the leap into interdisciplinary teaching with integrity, whether in similar topic areas or using similar approaches. They can help experienced interdisciplinary faculty learn from each other, enhancing the professional community of interdisciplinarians. Many faculty, as University of Hartford professor Harald Sandström has noted, have been doing “interdisciplinarity by accident.” The more we share ideas, the more we can build interdisciplinary practice that is informed by theory and interdisciplinary theory informed by practice.
Scholarship has been defined as a contribution to knowledge that is “public, susceptible to critical review and evaluation, and accessible for exchange and use by other members of one’s scholarly community” (Shulman, 1998, p. 5). By sharing course materials on a peer-reviewed website of our professional association, faculty can participate in an important way in the scholarship of interdisciplinary teaching. The syllabi website may well lead to further scholarship: for example, analysis of problems that emerged in teaching a particular interdisciplinary course might become an article for Integrative Pathways, while a more-developed response to issues of interdisciplinarity that emerged might be submitted to Issues in Interdisciplinary Studies.
Association for Integrative Studies and Institute in Integrative Studies. (1996). Guide to interdisciplinary syllabus preparation. Journal of General Education, 45, 170-173.
Davis, J. R. (1995). Interdisciplinary courses and team teaching: New arrangements for learning. Phoenix, AZ: American Council on Education and Oryx Press.
Klein, J. T., & Newell, W. H. (1997). Advancing interdisciplinary studies. In J. G. Gaff & J. L. Ratcliff (Ed.), Handbook of the Undergraduate Curriculum. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Shulman, L. (1998). Course anatomy: The dissection and analysis of knowledge through teaching. In P. Hutchings (Ed.), The course portfolio: How faculty can examine their teaching to advance practice and improve student learning (pp. 5-12). Washington, DC: AAHE.
Have you developed an interdisciplinary course that others could learn from? Does it explicitly draw on multiple disciplines and seek to integrate their insights? Are you interested in sharing your syllabus and assignments with others? We invite you to submit your syllabi and other course materials for possible inclusion in this AIS site.
A suggested starting point is general education courses, since that is the largest category of interdisciplinary courses currently taught across the country and the area of greatest need. These courses could be introductory or capstone level
Course syllabi submitted should meet the definition of interdisciplinarity given by Klein and Newell (1997) in the Handbook of the Undergraduate Curriculum: courses should
“address a topic that is too broad or complex to be dealt with adequately by a single discipline or profession,”
“draw on different disciplinary perspectives”
“integrate their insights through construction of a more comprehensive perspective”
Here, more specifically, are criteria that will be used in selecting syllabi for inclusion:
Interested faculty can forward submissions electronically to [email protected]. The submission should be in the form of either:
URL of your course website, which includes links to materials illustrating the interdisciplinary workings of the course (preferred, if available) email attachments in MSWord
In all cases faculty retain copyright to their own material, and readers will be encouraged to acknowledge any use of materials found on the AIS site (see Note on Acknowledgments). To assist in ongoing appropriate acknowledgment of your work, please include a line at the bottom of your syllabus with the copyright symbol, your name (including your email address, if you are willing), and date.
This is a peer-reviewed web site. Thus only a percentage of the submissions will be posted. Many excellent courses have strengths in areas other than their interdisciplinarity. In addition, many excellent courses are far more interdisciplinary in their actual processes than their syllabi show. Since all we and readers of this site have to go on is course documents, we will continue to post syllabi that most clearly reveal a course’s interdisciplinary nature.
Please be sure to adapt your submitted materials for faculty/scholar use.
For further information, please contact Debra Parker at [email protected]
This page presents courses that feature explicit exploration of the nature of interdisciplinarity and of disciplines. The courses listed thus far are from interdisciplinary degree programs, but courses from other kinds of programs are also welcome. Courses are listed alphabetically by author within subheadings.
Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies:
Foundations of Interdisciplinary Studies: Becoming Interdisciplinary, Tanya Augsburg, Arizona State University (now at San Francisco State University)
Syllabus, Course Reader, Assignments, Portfolio Checklist, Sample Student Worksheet, IDS Process
The West and the Frontier, Julie Thompson Klein, Wayne State University
The Story of English, Julie Thompson Klein, Wayne State University
Introductory Core Seminar: Introduction to Interdisciplinarity, Julie Thompson Klein, Wayne State University
Further submissions are invited for this site; see Invitation for Submissions, and Criteria for Selection.
This page offers a collection that will grow over time, as we seek to present an extensive and varied array of excellent courses across subject areas and levels. All courses listed are clearly interdisciplinary: They draw on different disciplinary perspectives and ask students to integrate insights from those perspectives. Course materials vary in the extent to which they are explicit and self-conscious about these processes. Subheadings are provided for convenience, though many courses do not fit neatly into a particular category. We look forward to adding further subheadings as we receive additional submissions. Courses are listed alphabetically by author within each subhead.
Romantic Literature & the Arts, Stephen Gottlieb, Quinnipiac University
The Gothic Imagination, Robert Viau, Georgia College and State University
Syllabus, Music Assignments, Gothic Architecture Assignments, Walpole Assignments, Death and Dying Assignments, Bosch Assignment
Environmental Psychology, Daniel Stokols, University of California, Irvine
These course lecture videos can be accessed through iTunes U using the free iTunes U app for mobile phone and iPad, or via the web link above. Just click on Course Lectures. The weblink provides access to the set of lecture videos only, whereas the iTunes U app for mobile devices provides supplemental course materials such as lecture slides, study guides, class-related web links, class outline and syllabus.
Music and American Culture, Julie Thompson Klein, Wayne State University
Ethics and Social Institutions, Jeff Konz, University of North Carolina, Asheville
Bridging the Great Divide: The Achievement Gap in Schools and Society, Kris Mickelson and Dean A. Pribbenow, Edgewood College, Madison, Wisconsin
Syllabus, Course Contract, Student Questionnaire, Exercise 1, Exercise 2, Exercise 3, Exercise 4, Exercise 5
Cultures, Organizations, and Stories, Dick Raspa, Wayne State University
Senior Research and Writing Seminar in Jurisprudence, Marilyn R. Tayler, Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey
Course Description, Pre-Reading Assignment, Research Hypothesis, Research Model, Research Proposal, Literature Search I, Data Collection, Literature Search II, Outline, Research Paper, Rubric
Science and Culture, J. Linn Mackey, Appalachian State University
Natural Sciences/Social Sciences/Humanities:
Philosophy and the Integration of Knowledge (PIK), Seth Holtzman, Chair, Religion & Philosophy Department, Catawba College, Salisbury, North Carolina
Syllabus, Note to AIS Readers, Paper on Integration for PIK Course, Sample Film Essay, Sample Final Paper, Sample Midterm, Student Evaluations, Presentation to Faculty Forum on 12/3/10
The Social Construction of an Apocalypse, Infectious Disease, & Literary Dystopias: The Rise of (Zombie) Terror in the 21st Century©, Dr. Alia Tyner-Mullings, Dr. Karla Fuller, Dr. Lori Ungemah, Guttman Community College
Syllabus, Poster Assignment, Sample Final Poster, Reflection Essay Assignment, Sample Reflection, Final Project Rubric
Further submissions are invited for this site; see Invitation for Submissions, and Criteria for Selection.
For any use in one’s scholarship of materials found on this site, standard procedures of documentation of course apply. We also encourage readers to give appropriate acknowledgment to the author if they use or modify materials for classroom use:
We suggest you include on your own materials, “Thanks to [author’s name] at [author’s university] for the original version of this syllabus [or assignment].”
We also suggest an email of acknowledgment to the author.
Acknowledging what we have learned from our colleagues in interdisciplinary studies is not only good practice in general but particularly appropriate given the collaborative nature of interdisciplinary enterprises. Acknowledgments for teaching materials help to put our teaching as well as our research in the context of the intellectual community in which we work. Further, we assist our colleagues professionally, as universities increasingly base part of their valuation of a work published on the web on evidence of its influence.
Faculty who are designing a new interdisciplinary course, or revising an existing one, can find a variety of useful resources listed on the AIS website, under AIS-Connected Publications on Interdisciplinarity.
Assessing Interdisciplinary Learning Outcomes (Allen F. Repko, University of Texas, Arlington)
Interdisciplinary Curriculum Design (Allen F. Repko, University of Texas, Arlington)
Guide to Interdisciplinary Syllabus Preparation (Association for Integrative Studies and Institute in Integrative Studies)
Designing Interdisciplinary Courses (William H. Newell, from interdisciplinary Studies Today, 1994, Jossey-Bass. This material is used by permission of John Wiley and Sons, Inc., www.wiley.com. For order information, go to amazon.com.
Learning Interdisciplinarity: A Course Portfolio
Sherry Linkon, Youngstown State University
Connexions: Sharing Knowledge and Building Communities
A growing online collection of course materials hosted by Rice University (modules and courses are often discipline based but offer useful resources toward building interdisciplinary courses)