Integrated Studies: Discover the Interdisciplinary Nature of Knowledge

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Comments from North students regarding their experience in a Coordinated Studies course:1

ed the interdisciplinary nature of knowledge:

It helped me draw better connections. I don't feel as if I'm eating the answer and spitting it back out at the teacher.  I feel like I'm discovering new ideas which makes me more enthusiastic about the class and much more motivated in understanding the texts. 

I was forced to shed some of my pre-conceived notions regarding how I go about studying and learning.  It is no longer ok for me to breeze through a book, gleaning the basic concepts and memorizing facts that look likely to be on an exam.  Now I have to actually read the work. I have to figure out what the author is trying to tell me and delve deeper by relating those concepts to other works and real life.  It is a refreshing challenge. 

Liked having multiple teachers:

Faculty didn't pretend to know everything, but we saw that they were learning.  This acknowledges that none of us can or be expected to know everything  there is to know about something. This was empowering.

 Instructors traded off authority with students.  Sometimes the teachers seemed  like  learners.  This is different than in a stand alone (“monoculture”) because it is  dynamic which models real life – “we are all learners”.

 Enjoyed seminars and peer learning:

You can use your peers to learn instead of relying solely on the instructor to provide the facts.

           Being able to see or hear different points of view about the
           readings has  really opened up my thinking.  You can talk all you
           want about how to think but when we get together and see how
           different people think it helps me to question and think.

Seminar was the chance to discuss thoughts and ideas openly without being laughed at.  It was nice to be able to bring an idea to the group and have everyone take it seriously.   It made me realize that not all my ideas are ignorant and uninspired.  In the future it will be easier to speak my mind.  Seminar also taught me to look deeper into everything. 

Learned specific skills:

We were invited to learn using our own brains

Seminaring helped me to learn to read “hard” books. 

These books would have been inaccessible to me before, expectation of reading them were out of my capacity but because of seminar it made it a different experience, how empowering. 

I read books that enlightened me and wrote seminar papers and essays that surprised me that I could write on such a deep level--meaning actually getting into the author's head. 

My critical thinking skills improved the most.  I analyze everything in my life now.  I am not so quick to make judgments.

I learned to ask for help which I haven't done before. 

Developed skills for a collaborative learning community:

We learned to build relationships with each other, like a community and in turn ALL were able to contribute ideas, writings, or feelings. 

The learning community model, especially seminars, created a “safe space” for the older, returning students. 

Forced me to interact with others, build relationships.  Taught me to feel comfortable speaking in front of a groups. 

This course helped me to stop and listen to others and value their opinions, beliefs, viewpoints and even consider them for myself. 

Liked having longer class sessions:

Being together for nine hours a week and working together in groups helped break down the stiff formal atmosphere of a normal classroom environment 

1  The above student comments are part of a longitudinal study of the benefits of coordinated studies courses. Over 600 students responded. Jim Harnish, principal investigator.