Guide for Interdisciplinary Learning 

Interdisciplinary learning communities are created when two or three courses are offered together for the same cohort of students by faculty who design and/or team teach the connected classes. Learning communities restructure the curriculum to increase both the intellectual and social interactions for students and faculty, students and peers, and faculty and colleagues.

The information in this guide should provide you with some basic considerations for beginning learning community (LC) work. However, successful LCs result from the creativity of individual faculty teams and student participants. The guidelines presented herein are meant to convey the minimal expectations that learning community practitioners have found meaningful during years of practice.

Student Outcomes for Learning Communities at De Anza

After participating in an interdisciplinary learning community, students should be better able to:

  • understand connections between disciplines and academic approaches to learning,
  • take responsibility for their own learning,
  • improve analytical, interpretative, and critical thinking abilities,
  • recognize and integrate multiple perspectives,
  • collaborate successfully with other students, and
  • understand and access campus services that will assist them in their academic lives.

Essential Characteristics of Learning Communities

  • The same students enroll in the same classes together.
  • The academic work of each course's subject matter is enhanced by interdisciplinary study in which students and faculty build connections between subject matters, disciplines, and ideas.
  • To facilitate interdisciplinary, the community focuses on a central theme.
  • Multicultural thinking is encouraged and developed to promote inclusive perspectives.
  • Courses are team designed and include some level of team teaching.
  • Collaborative learning and experiential learning methods are keystones of the pedagogy.

Planning Checklist for Faculty Teams


  1. A central theme that focuses on connections between content areas has been chosen.
  2. An LC title that reflects the theme while maintaining an appeal for students has been selected.
  3. Assignments, readings, materials, and activities have been designed to emphasize the integration of the content of the LC courses.
  4. Faculty members have determined the extent to which team teaching in the LC will be possible and most productive.
  5. A combined green sheet, integrating expectations, policies, and basic information for all courses within the LC has been created.
  6. An assignment and meeting calendar that integrates timelines for all classes has been planned and printed.

Some alternative pedagogies have been chosen, such as:

  • Collaborative Learning
  • Experiential/Active Learning
  • Problem-Based Learning
  • Service Learning


Instructor meetings are planned:

  • at inception with LinC Co-Coordinator and Staff Development Director;
  • regularly one and two quarters prior to teaching the LC for planning and preparation;
  • weekly during the quarter the LC is taught for facilitating adjustments and assessments.

Visitations from student services counselors (3 recommended, 1 the first or second week) are planned for the quarter.

Assessment is planned:

  • SGIF for weeks 3 and 10-11 conducted by LinC facilitator;
  • two instructor-facilitated Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) during the quarter;
  • Student Survey conducted by LinC representative;
  • recruitment for student focus groups.

Some Definitions

Interdisciplinary: An approach to the curriculum that connects areas of specialization or disciplines in order to reflect on a problem, develop thematic inquiry, or demonstrate the interconnections between fields of study.

Problem Based Learning: A teaching pedagogy that focuses on central questions and problems. Carefully designed problems demand the use of critical thinking, group participation, and self-directed learning strategies for their solutions.

Collaborative Learning: A pedagogical approach in which structured learning activities dependent on group deliberations are created. The approach attempts to transfer power to the learner, promote group problem solving, and improve the social skills of participants.

Experiential /Active Learning: Any approach that facilitates student learning through active participation, such as engagement in problem solving groups, participation in the creative arts, field trips, or lab experimentation.

Service Learning: An experiential learning method in which students assist (usually non-profit) agencies as volunteers. Theory and practice are thus joined to facilitate learning. Valuable organizations profit through the work of motivated volunteers, and authentic examples enable the faculty to make curriculum meaningful.

SGIF: Small Group Instructional Feedback is an assessment tool. An external consultant, such as the Staff and Organizational Development Director, facilitates an open discussion during which students assess the strengths of the class and suggest improvements.

CATS: Classroom Assessment Techniques are a group of quick, easily implemented assessment strategies used by faculty members at various points in the progression of a course to determine the successes and problems of a learning experience.

Team Teaching: A classroom approach in which more than one member of the faculty is responsible for the learning. Generally, "team" teaching implies that all members of the team are simultaneously present in the classroom, although responsibilities will shift between members during the course of the class.

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