Education and learning in the modern world has changed from being a standalone model to more eclectic approaches such as multi-, inter- and/or trans-disciplinary. The central need for connections between the different disciplines is attested to by the emergence of such multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinary models around the middle of the 20th century. Teaching approaches now typically deviate from teaching single subjects and focus more on common themes and processes. To elucidate:

  • Multidisciplinarity concerns studying a research topic not in only one discipline, but in several simultaneously.
  • Interdisciplinarity has a different goal from multidisciplinarity. It concerns the transfer of methods from one discipline to another.
  • Transdisciplinary approach of study is transcendent of curriculum content and focuses on authentic and blended learning; that offer new perspectives. It addresses current concepts within the context of multiple disciplines.

At Grassroots, we look at learning as having an evolutionary continuum contingent upon the development and needs of the students. Our focus is to embed the primary years program within a transdisciplinary approach moving to an interdisciplinary approach through the middle years and an intradisciplinary approach through the secondary years.

Transdisciplinary learning through the Primary Years (3-12)

The transdisciplinary approach focuses on the inquiry or process itself through the lenses of other disciplines. The inquiry topic or issue should be meaningful and pertinent to the student; a problem that they feel is complex and worthy of solving; and one that can provide multiple perspectives for addressing and providing solutions.

The idea of transdisciplinary basically means beyond all the disciplines but connected to all the disciplines by a unifying issue or topic of inquiry. Transdisciplinary learning is supported by curriculum frameworks popularly adopted to promote depth of understanding as well as adaptability to skills needed to succeed in our changing world. In addition, the most recent brain research supports that connections helps students understand complex concepts.

Interdisciplinary Learning through the Middle Years (11-16)

Interdisciplinary learning incorporates the application of methods and language from more than one academic discipline to examine a topic, theme, issue, question, problem, and/or experience. Interdisciplinary methods work to create connections between conventionally discrete disciplines such as mathematics, the sciences, social studies, and language arts. It uses horizontal integration to connect the interdependent knowledge and skills across multiple disciplines.

Typically, the curriculum that is contained in textbooks is neither timely nor relevant to students’ lives. There are many relevant topics that are not addressed in schools because of the breadth and depth of information that is actually available in the globalized, technological society we live in. Additionally, the daily schedule often fragments learning so that each teacher is given a defined time block to cover material that will likely be evaluated on a state/center mandated test. These act as deterrents making it difficult for teachers to engage students in studying and understanding concepts in-depth; and to make central connections between subjects.

Intradisciplinary Learning through the Higher Years (16-18)

An intradisciplinary approach involves the arrangement of knowledge and skills within individual subject areas. This approach adheres to the subject's way of knowing distinct conceptual structures and methods of inquiry. Its overarching aim is to integrate the subject's knowledge and skills into a coherent whole. Teachers integrate the subdisciplines within a subject area, when using an intradisciplinary approach. For example - integrating reading, writing, and oral communication in language arts. The approach believes in vertical integration where knowledge and skills acquired are within one subject area.