Monday, October 15, 2012

Multidisciplinary Teaching: Definitions and Applications


Hey GTCers!

To those of you who are joining us for the first time this quarter: welcome! And a warm welcome back to all our returning members as well.

During our first meeting this past Wednesday, we discussed both the main ideas of this quarter’s theme, “Multidisciplinary Teaching,” as well as some of the topics we think would be fruitful areas to further explore as we move through the quarter.

Some of the first questions we addressed were the most obvious: What is multidisciplinary teaching? Does this differ from interdisciplinary teaching? If so, how?

After consulting several dictionaries (and several smartphones), we determined that the difference is one of integration. Multidisciplinary teaching (MDT) involves a non-integrated mixture of disciplines. The methodologies of each discipline remain intact, offering students the opportunity to work in the ‘theoretical space’ of either parent discipline in order to explore the research questions that have been put to them. Interdisciplinary teaching (IDT), however, is teaching that crosses disciplines, blends methodologies, and creates altogether new theoretical spaces for academic exploration. Some great analogies were offered to help distinguish the two: MDT is a colloid, whereas IDT is a solution; MDT is a chorus, whereas IDT is a mashup; MDT is a margarita on the rocks, whereas IDT is a blended one!

There are already some excellent examples of MDT and IDT courses at UC Davis, with titles like “Singing about Science,” “The Physics of Music,” “Molecular Dynamics,” and many others. And some departments are, by their very nature, MDT or IDT disciplines. Ecology, Ethnomusicology, and the ‘Studies’ disciplines (Women’s Studies, African-American Studies, Gender Studies, etc.) were offered as just a few examples. Many participants found themselves looking at their own disciplines in new ways, discovering MD/ID influences in almost every department.

These discoveries led us nicely into the brainstorming phase of the meeting. Among the topics offered for the quarter were:

Technological aids for MDT/IDT

Diversity in MDT/IDT

Designing and Structuring MDT/IDT Courses

MDT/IDT and the Traditional Track

Blancing Theory and Practice in the MD/ID Classroom



We were also able to brainstorm suggestions for possible guest speakers, including a Q&A with professors who currently teach MD/ID classes and a presentation by the Career Services Center on how to use MD/ID experience to enhance your career portfolio.

By the time we’d finished our brainstorming session, our meeting time had come to a close. But armed with a litany of topics to explore, we felt very excited about the weeks to come!



This next phase is where YOU come in. Now that workshop topics have been created, we need facilitators! If you intend to complete the certificate program, you are required to facilitate at least one workshop this quarter. But anyone who is interested may offer up their services, and you are of course more than welcome to present on a topic of interest not seen here.

Below you’ll find a link to a google spreadsheet with all of our meeting dates for the quarter - simply find a week that works for you, and insert your name along with your topic of interest. Is your topic already up there? No worries! Workshops by groups of two or three are encouraged.


Don’t know how to facilitate a workshop? No problem! Presenters can format workshops however they like - the more interactive, the better! For one example of how to structure your own presentation, come to our GTC meeting THIS Wednesday for a talk about tailoring your lessons to suit your audience, presented by Donnelly West (see the flyer, below). As always, our meetings take place from 12-1pm in room 2004 of the Plant and Environmental Sciences (PES) building. Bring a lunch (or a friend) if you like, and come prepared for some insightful information on this critical and basic component of effective teaching!



We have an exciting quarter ahead of us, and we greatly look forward to all of the insights and explorations yet to come. Be sure to sign up for your workshop of choice, check out this week’s meeting flyer, and be sure to get in touch if you have any questions. Thanks again for your interest in the GTC - we hope to see you there!

All the best,

Sarah and Donnelly
2012-2013 GTC Coordinators

Contact Information:
Sarah Messbauer: smessbauer@ucdavis.edu
Donnelly West: donwest@ucdavis.edu



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