What is interdisciplinary learning?

Interdisciplinary learning enables teachers and learners to make connections across learning through exploring clear and relevant links across the curriculum. It supports the use and application of what has been taught and learned in new and different ways. It provides opportunities for deepening learning, for example through answering big questions, exploring an issue, solving problems or completing a final project.

‘Building the Curriculum 3’ states:

“Effective interdisciplinary learning:

can take the form of individual one-off projects or longer courses of study
> is planned around clear purposes
> is based upon experiences and outcomes drawn from different curriculum areas or subjects within them
> ensures progression in skills and in knowledge and understanding
> can provide opportunities for mixed stage learning which is interest based.”

Building the Curriculum 2 (p.11)

There are two broad types of interdisciplinary learning which, in practice, often overlap.

  • Learning planned to develop awareness and understanding of the connections and differences across subject areas and disciplines. This can be through the knowledge and skill content, the ways of working, thinking and arguing or the particular perspective of a subject or discipline.
  • Using learning from different subjects and disciplines to explore a theme or an issue, meet a challenge, solve a problem or complete a final project. This can be achieved by providing a context that is real and relevant, to the learners, the school and its community.

For example, this may mean:

  • Teaching probability in mathematics co-ordinated with science work on DNA and genetics – so that pupils better understand both probability as a mathematical concept and its application to genetics.
  • A project for P6/P7 to create informative and attractive information brochures (or a website) for pupils in schools in a twin town in France, by using knowledge and skills developed in the study of local history, geography, art and design and French language.

Education Scotland is working with a range of schools to provide further examples of interdisciplinary learning to support professional development. These will be added to our online support on a regular basis.

To be genuinely interdisciplinary, learning must support learners in using knowledge and skills from different disciplines and in applying and deepening their learning in relevant contexts, and help them to make real connections across subjects and disciplines, where appropriate.


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