Wearing Multiple Thinking Caps: Interdisciplinary Education in the 21st Century

Wearing Multiple Thinking Caps: Interdisciplinary Education in the 21st Century

July 5, 2021


When current forms of learning do not sufficiently prepare students for the future, what is the alternative? Interdisciplinary learning might just be the answer.                                                                                                                                                                    Source: Unsplash                                                                                                                                                                                                





In today’s ever more complex and dynamic world, the ability to think critically across a range of subject matters and employ skills interchangeably has become increasingly important.

The shift away from single-domain expertise is reflected in the steps that several top universities are making toward a more interdisciplinary approach to learning.

Just last year, the National University of Singapore announced the creation of a new College of Humanities and Sciences, which seeks to train its students in “areas that cut across different fields of study, such as design thinking, artificial intelligence and scientific inquiry.”

As today’s education shifts away from single-track to cross-subject learning, we, as educators, must adapt existing curricula to nurture future-ready students who will be ready to face the challenges of the 21st century.

Interdisciplinary learning is in a position to do just that.

What is Interdisciplinary Learning?

Interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary learning encourages students to establish connections across various “disciplines'' or subjects offered in a curriculum. This integration of different fields of knowledge allows learners to tackle big questions and solve real-world problems that cannot be examined through just one topic of study.

Multidisciplinary learning is an essential facet of education in the 21st century, especially as the face of work and demand for skill sets changes. Workforces of the future will demand agile thinkers who can understand the complexities of real-world scenarios and synthesise new knowledge – this is the future that we need to prepare our students for.

That is why at Doyobi, we strive to combine content and skillsets from various disciplines to solve real-world problems. Our focus on building interdisciplinary thinking, in turn, enables students to discover the joys of thinking out-of-the-box and taps into a child’s natural curiosity about the world around them.

The Benefits of Interdisciplinary Learning

“Those who can thrive in this changing global environment will have a broad interest and knowledge outside of their specific disciplines”

- Nanyang Technological University President, Subra Suresh.

The ability to wear multiple thinking caps and draw on skills from various disciplines will be essential in 21st-century education. Without a doubt, there are many benefits that a multidisciplinary education can bring about. Here are three which we believe might be the most important:

  1. Critical Thinking Skills: Interdisciplinarity taps on students’ problem-solving skills, especially when tackling challenges from the real world. Students become better equipped to understand the links between what they learn and actual situations that arise in their everyday lives.
  2. Teamwork and Collaboration: It also encourages teamwork and collaboration among learners by drawing on each individual student’s strengths to connect the dots amongst themselves.
  3. Active Learning: Students learn not to be passive consumers of knowledge and actively seek out knowledge across disciplines. This goes against the typical textbook-based knowledge that is common across many educational systems today.

How can educators introduce Interdisciplinary Learning?

Before trying to win over the students, educators themselves must be convinced about the benefits of interdisciplinary learning. It can be difficult to incorporate a multidisciplinary learning environment into the classroom when teachers themselves have been trained to be subject matter experts.

Though initially daunting, pushing beyond the confines of a single domain is an achievable goal. The initial step requires educators to be equipped with the right tools to teach multidisciplinarity. Certain platforms allow teachers to adopt a problem-based or thematic approach to connect course content across disciplines. This approach helps learners go beyond the classroom to explore the multi-faceted and complex problems of the world.

By framing classroom activities as interconnected to a child’s daily life and the world, this makes integrating knowledge from various subjects immediately relatable and accessible to young minds. This creates a buy-in from students into the interdisciplinary method, which is crucial to developing learning attitudes & mindsets that students would need to thrive in the future.

Multidisciplinary learning is not an end in itself

The pursuit of interdisciplinary learning and teaching is a never-ending journey. Empowering lifelong learners with a clear sense of purpose and equipping them to face the challenges of the 21st century is the goal, but we have to start with small and incremental steps to get there.


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