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Promoting Interdisciplinary Learning: A Cross-Course Assignment for Undergraduate Students in Advanced Biology and Drawing Courses

    Authors: Trisha Mahtani1,2, Yael S. Brotman3, Aarthi Ashok1,*
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto Scarborough, Toronto, ON M1C 1A4, Canada; 2: Cell & Systems Biology Graduate Program, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, M5S 1A1, Canada; 3: Department of Arts, Culture and Media, University of Toronto Scarborough, Toronto, ON M1C 1A4, Canada
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Received 30 August 2019 Accepted 13 November 2019 Published 28 February 2020
    • ©2020 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology
    • [open-access] This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/ and https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode), which grants the public the nonexclusive right to copy, distribute, or display the published work.

    • Supplemental materials available at http://asmscience.org/jmbe
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto Scarborough, 1265 Military Trail, Toronto, ON M1C 1A4, Canada. Phone: 416-208-5102. Fax: 416-287-7676. E-mail: [email protected].
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. February 2020 vol. 21 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v21i1.1919
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    Abstract:

    Exposing students to interdisciplinary learning experiences has many benefits including a richer understanding of complex problems, promoting metacognition, and recognizing how to effectively use their skills. For biology students, immersion in creativity and design-thinking inherent to the arts can aid in their ability to imagine, innovate and communicate science. For art students who have been trained to develop unique visual vocabularies, an important learning experience would be to communicate didactic knowledge of an unfamiliar domain in a way that is visually compelling, imaginatively open-ended and informative. For both cohorts of students, academic training at the undergraduate level has remained somewhat sequestered in disciplinary silos. If we are to truly prepare students for careers in which they innovate, work collaboratively, solve problems and continue to learn, then we must provide authentic inquiry-based assignments that allow them to see the value of such proficiencies. This was the rationale behind designing this interdisciplinary assignment for biology and art students at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Here, we report on the design, implementation and insights from the pilot offering of this assignment. We hope that this provides a useful teaching tool for instructors interested in promoting interdisciplinary teaching and learning at the undergraduate level.

References & Citations

1. de la Croix A, Rose C, Wildig E, Willson S 2011 Arts-based learning in medical education: the students’ perspective Med Educ 45 1090 1100 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2011.04060.x 21988624 http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2923.2011.04060.x
2. Bramstedt KA 2016 The use of visual arts as a window to diagnosing medical pathologies AMA J Ethics 18 843 854 10.1001/journalofethics.2016.18.8.imhl1-1608 27550570 http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/journalofethics.2016.18.8.imhl1-1608
3. Gurnon D, Voss-Andreae J, Stanley J 2013 Integrating art and science in undergraduate education PLOS Biol 11 e1001491 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001491 23468590 3582565 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001491
4. Osbourn A 2008 SAW: breaking down barriers between art and science PLOS Biol 6 e211 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060211 18752351 2525686 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0060211

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2020-02-28
2020-04-03

Abstract:

Exposing students to interdisciplinary learning experiences has many benefits including a richer understanding of complex problems, promoting metacognition, and recognizing how to effectively use their skills. For biology students, immersion in creativity and design-thinking inherent to the arts can aid in their ability to imagine, innovate and communicate science. For art students who have been trained to develop unique visual vocabularies, an important learning experience would be to communicate didactic knowledge of an unfamiliar domain in a way that is visually compelling, imaginatively open-ended and informative. For both cohorts of students, academic training at the undergraduate level has remained somewhat sequestered in disciplinary silos. If we are to truly prepare students for careers in which they innovate, work collaboratively, solve problems and continue to learn, then we must provide authentic inquiry-based assignments that allow them to see the value of such proficiencies. This was the rationale behind designing this interdisciplinary assignment for biology and art students at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Here, we report on the design, implementation and insights from the pilot offering of this assignment. We hope that this provides a useful teaching tool for instructors interested in promoting interdisciplinary teaching and learning at the undergraduate level.

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FIGURE 1

Assignment timeline and structure. The assignment was implemented over a 12-week semester. Student groups were required to meet in class in Weeks 2, 8, and 11 and were encouraged to meet weekly outside of class. LO = learning objective.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. February 2020 vol. 21 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v21i1.1919
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