Exploring the Effectiveness of Interdisciplinary Instruction on Learning: A Case Study in a College Level Course on Culture, Aid, and Engineering

Timothy Frank,  J. R. Aldred and Alice Meyer

ABSTRACT

The opportunity for higher education students to study a topic through multiple, integrated angles is rare even though life outside of the classroom is filled with problems that require blending of knowledge areas to make appropriate decisions. The authors created a course at the United States Air Force Academy called Foreign Area Studies (FAS) 495 in the Spring 2012 semester that integrated African studies, economics, history, political science, literature, project management, military strategy, language, culture, and environmental engineering in the study of how foreign aid has affected Mozambique and how an engineering technology along with cultural consciousness can be effectively used for good. To determine effectiveness of the interdisciplinary approach, qualitative data from student reflection papers and in-class discussions were collected and analyzed. The intent of this paper is to highlight the challenges and lessons learned from developing a project based interdisciplinary course. Results suggest a project based course with interdisciplinary pedagogy can be effective in meeting course goals and increasing meaningful student learning.

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