Betty Shoemaker and Jean Eklund
We live in a society that prizes depth in a single discipline over breadth in multiple areas. Innovation, however, demands that we see the world through multiple lenses at the same time, and draw meaning from seemingly disparate information.
Interdisciplinarity engages teachers and students in connecting and integrating several academic schools of thought, professions, or technologies in the pursuit of a common task. An interdisciplinary community or project is made up of people from multiple disciplines and professions who are engaged in creating and applying new knowledge as they work together as equal stakeholders in addressing a common challenge. They approach a problem from various angles and methods, considering diverse and even contradictory points of view, eventually cutting across disciplines and forming a new method for understanding the subject.
Cultivating interdisciplinarity as a habit of mind is essential to the education of informed and engaged citizens and leaders capable of analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing information from multiple sources in order to render reasoned decisions. Interdisciplinarity requires that those involved have interactional expertise to improve their efficiency working across multiple disciplines as well as within the new interdisciplinary area.
Integrative education cuts across subject-matter lines, bringing together various aspects of the curriculum into meaningful association to focus upon broad areas of study. It reflects the interdependent real world, and involves the learner's body, thoughts, feelings, senses, and intuition in learning experiences that unify knowledge and provide a greater understanding than that which could be obtained by examining the parts separately.
Integrative Education. A Curriculum for the Twenty-First Century
The goal of arts integration is bringing the arts wholly and multidimensionality into the service of the learning mind. It leads toward interdisciplinarity, not via an inflexible commitment to cross-subject teaching, but because of the growing recognition that exposure to the arts enhances a student’s prospect of learning and achieving in general. Not only do the arts foster a set of transferable academic competencies such as creativity, intellectual risk-taking, or the ability to see multiple solutions to a problem, but arts-rich curricula also appear to enhance a student’s likelihood to self-identify as a “learner.” Within this frame, the arts are not only learned, they help constitute the process of learning itself.