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3 – Application of Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives in Early Non-Major Undergraduate Education


  • Salwa Al-Noori, Division of Biological Sciences, School of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics, UW Bothell
  • Gary Carpenter, School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, UW Bothell


Topic: We describe the design, implementation, and assessment methods of two quarter-long cross-disciplinary courses at the University of Washington Bothell (Autumn 2018, 2019) incorporating art and science as tools of inquiry exploring the natural world.

Context: This freshman foundational course in the first year Discovery Core (DC) series was designed and co-taught by one art and one science faculty to students of diverse ethnic/cultural background and overall college preparedness.

Scholarly basis: The instructor’s field-specific teaching experiences informed this science-art integrated course aimed at promoting holistic understanding greater than that achievable solely through single-discipline perspectives. These rigorous, creative interdisciplinary courses incorporated requisite components of DC1 courses including introduction to research, writing communication skills, and developing successful academic strategies from onset of collegiate experience.

Results: We identify the impact of providing formal awareness of the role of interdisciplinary learning versus comparable dual-perspective learning approaches. Instructional approaches emphasized student-centered discussions, hands-on activities, individual reflections, and group research projects focused on integration of our respective disciplines. Further transformative aspects included student exposure to the role of interdisciplinarity in public communication and collaborative research, while encouraging comfort in thinking broadly across disciplines. Evaluation was based on pre/post-surveys and synthesis of final projects.

Application: This experience informs our individual instructional practices. Salwa Al-Noori finds incorporating multidisciplinary perspectives in her teaching has allowed her to achieve greater inclusivity, integration, and student recognition of the value of interdisciplinarity. Gary Carpenter is inspired to infuse a wider range of disciplines into his arts-based courses, highlighting the arts as a rigorous research methodology and the benefits of interdisciplinary inquiry. This course design underscores benefits of collaborative interdisciplinary teaching in developing higher-level learning while exposing students to both disciplines early in their college experience: “I see them both as a gateway to understanding as well as a way to discover…” (student quote).

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