Interdisciplinary General Education

The Desirability and Feasibility of an Interdisciplinary Approach to General Education


An interdisciplinary approach to General Education has myriad advantages. These include:

  • Facilitating coherence both within General Education and between General Education and the Major, by guiding students to draw connections across material from different disciplines.

  • Reinforcing the many skills and traits that General Education programs commonly pursue, such as critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and collaboration

  • Integrating information-based content and pedagogical skill sets

The first section of this website (left sidebar) expands on the various advantages of an interdisciplinary approach to General Education in the pursuit of a variety of General Education goals.

The second section (right sidebar) provides practical advice on how to develop and institute an Interdisciplinary General Education program. It provides a wide variety of resources to assist in the pedagogical framing of such programs as well as in the practical development of both the program and individual courses themselves.We will outline a set of courses and modules within courses that universities might introduce.

We strive to be brief throughout but guide the reader to publications that can provide more detailed information.

There will naturally be many hyperlinks between the two sections, for we will discuss how certain courses or modules facilitate the achievement of certain General Education goals. The ubiquity of such links should indicate that interdisciplinarity provides a coherent and multifaceted approach to achieving General Education goals. Yet we should stress that interdisciplinary elements require only a moderate amount of curricular time.

Institutions can develop General Education programs that reflect institutional priorities while also capitalizing on the benefits of interdisciplinarity. In fact, as the resources here indicate, most institutional priorities, and more importantly, student learning opportunities, are enhanced by the inclusion of interdisciplinary classroom practices, curricular designs, and research components.

We note that there is a debate in General Education circles as to whether General Education should focus primarily on imparting certain information or transmitting certain skills [See Some Literature on GenEd Goals]: We believe that an interdisciplinary approach allows us to do both.

NOTE: We append to this page a Powerpoint presentation used in presenting and motivating this material at the Association of American Colleges and Universities conference on General education in phoenix in February 2017.

PART II. Instituting Interdisciplinary General Education

Defining Disciplines and Interdisciplinarity, Understanding their History

Teaching Interdisciplinary Integration

Teaching Creativity

Integrating across Differences in Values

Thematic Interdisciplinary Courses

Integrative Learning

Synergies with Community Service Learning

Interdisciplinary Communication



Designing a General Education Curriculum

Faculty Development


The key message here is that a wide variety of resources now exist to support such an initiative. Instructors need not be experts in the literature on interdisciplinarity in order to teach interdisciplinary material.