What is Interdisciplinary/Cross-Curricular Teaching?

Interdisciplinary/cross-curricular teaching involves a conscious effort to apply knowledge, principles, and/or values to more than one academic discipline simultaneously. The disciplines may be related through a central theme, issue, problem, process, topic, or experience (Jacobs, 1989). The organizational structure of interdisciplinary/cross-curricular teaching is called a theme, thematic unit, or unit, which is a framework with goals/outcomes that specify what students are ex-pected to learn as a result of the experiences and lessons that are a part of the unit.

There seem to be two levels of integration that schools go through: The first is integration of the language arts (listening, speaking, reading, writing, thinking) (Fogarty, 1991; Pappas, Kiefer, & Levstik, 1990); the second involves a much broader kind of integration, one in which a theme begins to encompass all curricular areas.

Interdisciplinary/cross-curricular teaching is often seen as a way to address some of the recurring problems in education, such as fragmentation and isolated skill instruction. It is seen as a way to support goals such as transfer of learning, teaching students to think and reason, and providing a curriculum more relevant to students (Marzano, 1991; Perkins, 1991).


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