LogoScience IDEAS Project: 2002-2009

Interdisciplinary Perspectives as a Basis
for the Science IDEAS K-5 Model

A recent appraisal of how interdisciplinary research relates to meaningful learning is overviewed in the report by the National Academy Press, How People Learn, (Bransford et al. 2000). This report (Chapters 1-2-3) provides a foundation for why and how science as a form of in-depth, content-area instruction can serve as a core element in literacy development (e.g., reading comprehension, writing) in elementary schools. In their overview, Bransford et al. summarized consensus research investigating expert behavior and expertise as a unifying concept for meaningful learning. Such studies have established that, in comparison to novices, experts demonstrate a highly-developed organization of knowledge that emphasizes an in-depth understanding of the core concepts and concept relationships in their discipline (i.e., domain-specific knowledge) that, in turn, they are able to access efficiently and apply with automaticity.

Although the instructional implications of such perspectives are highly supportive of the importance of in-depth, cumulative, content-area conceptual learning (see Schmidt et al. on the Third International Math and Science Study findings), these implications are in direct conflict with the present lack of emphasis on meaningful curricular content in popular approaches to reading and language arts that presently dominate elementary schools (e.g., Hirsch 1996, 2006; Walsh 2003) and have resulted in a de-emphasis of science instruction (Dillon 2006; Jones et al. 1999).

In general, interdisciplinary foundations of meaningful school learning draw from the complementary areas of cognitive science, cognitive psychology, applied learning, instructional design/development, and educational research. Although there is a wide variety of such work, several key research-based perspectives provide primary tenets. The first has to do with the architecture of knowledge-based instruction systems (Luger 2008) originally developed to implement computer-based intelligent tutoring systems. The second (Kintsch 1994, 1998, 2004) has to do with the importance of having a well-structured curricular environment for learning (see also Schmidt et al. 1997;1999). The third (Bransford et al. 2000) has to do with the role of knowledge as applied in the problem-solving behavior of experts (i.e., expertise) vs. that of novices. And, the fourth has to do with cognitive research dealing with the linkage of declarative knowledge to procedural knowledge and automaticity (Anderson 1982, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1996).

The related references (above) expand these interdisciplinary foundations.