The Ontario Curriculum Grades 11 and 12 Interdisciplinary Studies
The Place of Interdisciplinary Studies in the Curriculum – Our world is increasingly interconnected and interdependent. Communications networks exchange information around the globe, creating new forms of collaboration and transforming the nature of work and learning. New areas of study develop to advance human knowledge and respond to the challenges of our changing world with insight and innovation. These include areas that often combine or cross subjects or disciplines, such as space science, information management systems, alternative energy technologies, and computer art and animation. Students today face an unprecedented range of social, scientific, economic, cultural, environmental, political, and technological issues. To deal with these issues, they first need competencies derived from discrete disciplines.
E.g., An interdisciplinary studies course that introduces students to information studies would integrate studies in history, philosophy, and science to develop an understanding of the human need to use information to communicate knowledge, scholarship, and values in a global society. In such a course, students would use a variety of inquiry and research methods to analyse the evolution and impact of information and information technologies on society, and to report on effective ways to use knowledge institutions such as libraries and postsecondary institutions to support community involvement, future employment, and lifelong learning.
The IDC4U – Data Science course by Fireside Analytics Academy combines concepts from existing Ministry of Education high school courses e.g.,
- Computer Programming e.g., ICS4U
- Business Studies e.g., BBB4M
- Mathematics e.g., MDM4U
Data Science is a field that draws from multiple disciplines including, mathematics, statistics, business studies and computer programming. We researched the core skills required in modern work environments and used lessons from these disciplines to develop compelling case studies that teach high school learners how to solve problems with data. The case studies are based on current jobs and issues faced in the workplace today.
To deal with today’s issues, students also require interdisciplinary1 skills that focus on the issues themselves, especially skills related to the research process, information management, collaboration, critical and creative thinking, and technological applications. Students need to know new methods and forms of analysis, interpretation, synthesis, and evaluation that will allow them to build on skills acquired through the core curriculum. Interdisciplinary practitioners can use modern systems-thinking and systems-design2 approaches to investigate how lasting solutions take into account all external and internal factors. Using models and prototypes, students can simulate ideas and test variables to produce new products or perspectives or find and implement solutions that go beyond established disciplines
To make sense of the growth and often disparate nature of data and information, students must become information literate.3 To do this, they must be able to combine diverse models of research and inquiry, integrate a range of information-management skills and technologies, and apply the processes of information organization, storage, and retrieval to new situations and across many disciplines. Consequently, it is important to recognize that the skills, knowledge, insights, and innovations of the discipline of information studies are central to interdisciplinary work
Students with well-developed information studies skills and knowledge will have increased marketability in a variety of careers. For instance, biology and chemistry graduates who know how to use global networks for scientific research to retrieve information and manage data will have greater opportunities for work in research labs. In the same way, graduates of economics, history, and political science who have taken courses requiring them to use information systems, online databases, and advanced research methods should have increased employment opportunities.
- For the purposes of this document, the term interdisciplinary is used to describe an approach to learning and knowledge that integrates and benefits from the understanding and application of the approaches of different subjects and disciplines. The course expectations in this document reflect the following approaches: multidisciplinary approaches where the subjects or disciplines are connected through a theme, issue, problem, or research question; interdisciplinary approaches where a theme, issue, problem, or research question defines the approach taken and directs the attempt to seek a synthesis across object/discipline boundaries; transdisciplinary approaches where real-life contexts direct learning that goes beyond particular subjects or disciplines.
- Systems thinking is the method used to systematically analyse how all internal and external factors, both real and hypothetical, related to systems or organizations interact to create results (e.g., an analysis of the many interrelated factors – social, political, economic, and cultural – related to creating and promoting a new museum exhibition). Systems design is a set of methods, activities, and technologies (e.g., use of models and prototypes) for applying systems thinking in order to create and describe new solutions to significant issues or problems.
- Information literacy is the ability to access, select, gather, critically evaluate, and communicate information in all disciplines, and to use the information obtained to solve problems, make decisions, develop knowledge, and create new ideas and personal meaning.
When preparing for postsecondary study, apprenticeship, and the world of work, students also need general, transferable abilities, such as the skills of effective team building, leadership, and collaborative decision making. As students enter the world of work, either independently in new ventures or interdependently as part of project teams, they will also need to be enterprising and flexible.
In interdisciplinary studies courses, students consciously apply the concepts, methods, and language of more than one discipline to explore topics, develop skills, and solve problems. These courses are intended to reflect the linkages and interdependencies among subjects, disciplines, and courses and their attendant concepts, skills, and applications, and are more than the sum of the disciplines included. In an unpredictable and changing world, interdisciplinary study encourages students to choose new areas for personal study and to become independent, lifelong learners who have learned not only how to learn but also how to assess and value their own thinking, imagination, and ingenuity in decision-making situations.
The goal of the interdisciplinary studies program in Grades 11 and 12 is to ensure that students:
- build on and interconnect, in an innovative way, concepts and skills from diverse disciplines;
- develop the ability to analyse and evaluate complex information from a wide range of print, media, electronic, and human resources;
- learn to plan and work both independently and collaboratively;
- are able to apply established and new technologies appropriately and effectively;
- use inquiry and research methods from diverse disciplines to identify problems and to research solutions beyond the scope of a single discipline;
- develop the ability to view issues from multiple perspectives to challenge their assumptions and deepen their understanding;
- use higher-level critical- and creative-thinking skills to synthesize methodologies and insights from a variety of disciplines and to implement innovative solutions;
- apply interdisciplinary skills and knowledge to new contexts, real-world tasks, and on-thejob situations and thus develop a rich understanding of existing and potential personal and career opportunities;
- use interdisciplinary activities to stimulate, monitor, regulate, and evaluate their thinking processes and thus learn how to learn.
Interdisciplinary studies courses are appropriate for students with diverse abilities, interests, and learning styles, ranging from those who may need assistance in meeting diploma requirements to those enrolled in specialized programs of study such as technology or the arts. They will help students who are preparing to enter the workplace, as well as those who are planning to go on to study at a college or university. These courses reinforce students’ general skills in awide range of academic and applied contexts.
In their focus on real-life contexts, interdisciplinary studies courses tend to be highly motivating. They help students develop their knowledge and skills as a result of working on meaningful projects, which are often linked to the community. They also provide opportunities for students to explore issues and problems that interest them from a variety of perspectives.
Cooperative education courses can easily be incorporated into interdisciplinary studies courses to help students make the transition between school and the world of work. An increasing number of colleges and universities in Ontario, in other parts of Canada, and around the world offer interdisciplinary studies programs at the postsecondary and graduate levels.