Academic journal article Science Educator

An Empirical Study Investigating Interdisciplinary Teaching of Biology and Physical Education

Academic journal article Science Educator

An Empirical Study Investigating Interdisciplinary Teaching of Biology and Physical Education

Article excerpt


For years, interdisciplinary teaching (IdT) has been regarded as a form of education imparting cross-linked and applicable knowledge to students beyond the bounds of individual disciplines (MSWWF, 1999a/b). Because of the vague and variable definitions of IdT that are found throughout literature, this article utilizes the term IdT to represent all methods of teaching related to more than one subject (Häsing, 2009; Labudde, 2003). This paper deals with the combined teaching of biology and physical education (PE).

IdT is recognised as an important teaching method and can be found in numerous current syllabi of German federal states, for instance in the curricula of Hesse (2010a/b), Lower Saxony (2007a/b; 2010), North Rhine-Westphalia (2014a/b; 2008), Saxony (2011a/b) and BadenWürttemberg (2004). Baden-Wurttemberg's curriculum (2004) considers IdT as an indispensable prerequisite for scientific propaedeutical issues and thus relevant for upper school teaching. Saxony (201 la/b) further strengthens IdT's relevance by demanding that each student must engage in cross-disciplinary learning for at least two weeks in each school year, irrespective of school age.

During the last ten years, both German and international studies concerning IdT have been published. They examine different aspects of this method, such as the general availability of it in schools and how it is realized there already (e.g. Häsing, 2009; Maier, 2006; Rabenstein, 2003). Other studies deal with the students' performance before and after sequences of this method (Clary & Wandersee, 2007; Klos, 2007; Lambert, 2005). There are studies on the students' and teachers' attitudes towards IdT to be found as well (e.g., Gerdes, 2001; Hodgson, Keck, Patterson & Maki, 2005; Lambert, 2005; Schwartz-Bloom, Halpin & Reiter, 2011; Stiibig, Ludwig, Bosse, Gessner & Lorberg, 2006). However, these studies are unable to reveal any explicit statement about the concept's effectiveness, especially regarding the students' improvement of application skills. This is also confirmed by Klos (2007), who sees a lack of substantiated empirical data to support IdT. Therefore, the study presented in this paper examines IdT's effectiveness in respect to the students' growth in knowledge in biology and PE. It must be noted that this area has not yet been researched extensively.

Expectations Regarding Interdisciplinary Teaching

As mentioned above, different German federal states already demand IdT in their curricula and regard it as a method for helping students to acquire knowledge that is of great personal relevance to them and, consequently, easily applied to everyday situations (Muller, 2006; Schecker & Winter, 2000). Dealing with problems from everyday life situations and following a problemoriented teaching approach results in a deepened learning experience for students. This is based on the premise that students learn more readily by means of practical experience and relevance to their environment (Stiibig, Bosse & Ludwig, 2002). The learning objectives anticipated with IdT are related to three aspects, namely developing cross-linked and scientific knowledge, learning how to act and learning to transfer knowledge to other situations. Consequently, this method's intention is to avoid the emergence of inert or passive knowledge (Berck & Graf, 2003) and to provide schoolchildren with basic skills to transfer academic knowledge to their living environments.

Within the concept of IdT, the approach of situated learning has to be mentioned. This concept includes learning content that is meaningful and of personal relevance to students and their environments (Müller, 2006; Schecker & Winter, 2000). Hence, it describes learning conditions that consider various application situations within the learning process and thus try to prevent passive knowledge. Passive knowledge arises because of differences in the situation of learning and the situation of application where new content should be used (Hartinger & Mörtl-Hafizovic, 2009). …

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