The Perception of Teachers upon Interdisciplinary Approach (Study)

The issue of the interdisciplinary approaches in education it is not new, but it always causes thorough analysis regarding the ways in which it could be applied within the educational process. By the education’s interdisciplinary nature, one has to see an education which can create the image of unity and reality to its students, to form them a unitary research methodology of this reality and to develop an integrating, unitary, systemic thinking. The cognitive accumulation from the different scientific fields, as well as the multiplication of the education’s sources imposes modern dimensioning and structuring contents strategies.

A new information selection methodology is required, the decongestion and other organizing, prioritizing, creating and putting into practice criteria, as close to reality and to the education objectives regarding the achieving of a holistic vision on students, as possible.  School should exceed the level at which teaching is focused on individual subjects and their isolated data as „the boundaries among disciplines and subject area are artificial and limit students access to broader meaning in life (Russell and Zembylas, 2007:288). An education divided strictly by subjects to which correspond to specific objectives and methods, conflicts with the students’ natural steps, tented to entirely explore the reality. The correlation principle is necessary within the teaching process. This underlies to the preparation of the curricula and activities planning; thus assuring a certain order, a link between pieces of knowledge which emphasizes the unity of the world and its diversity.

The tendency towards unity in knowledge it’s not new, its roots can be looked for in the undifferentiated totalities of knowledge by means of the myths. As the thinking process gains more and more in terms of the issues, methodology, truth degrees, the efforts of underlining the unity were kept. The interdisciplinary became a principle for selecting and organizing the education’s contents. It leads to time saving as it diminishes the students exhaustion. The students discover and perceive the world’s unity in diversity by taking over, explanation, concepts application and by repetitions; they discover that the world is populated by systems and subsystems. The interdisciplinarity issue became present again because of the informational explosion of the different fields which give significant opportunities for connection, common notions, complementary applications, students’ critic thinking and epistemological curiosities development. Perceiving the worlds’ unity and what we call “the contemporary worlds’ matter”, the students will notice better the fields and subjects specificity, the acquisitions pragmatism for their own formation and scientific education. Data acquired in a holistic manner is this easily connected with previous knowledge and can also be recalled much faster (Caine and Caine, 1997).

Nowadays, in the Romanian educational system it is more and more asserted the tendency towards interdisciplinary, which some Romanian pedagogues, as George Văideanu, Mihai Stanciu, Constantin Cucoş, place among the innovative didactic principles. There were and still are, still persist to new education restructuring tests, of its contents but more important is to be noticed the gradual advance, with small but sure steps, under various forms, on the interdisciplinary path.

Such a step was the dividing of the syllabus by curricula. Many curriculum come in an integrated vision. Some correlations between the subjects with common notions were recommended. „Optional” from the Curriculum at the School Decision are interdisciplinary examples already applied. The education development makes possible new ways of interdisciplinary approach. The same experiences of learning satisfy multiple disciplinary requests.

Education philosophy highlights the heuristic force of interdisciplinarity. It suggests the difficulties which they face. The correlated subjects’ language differences must be surpassed. There have to be combined the different ways of thinking proper to different subjects, their logic, systems, even their sentence type. Interdisciplinarity connections represent an integrated didactical approach, where knowledge, contents and learning skills are being connected horizontally and vertically (Sicherl-Kafol, B. & Denac, O, 2010: 4696).

Learning by subjects and the interdisciplinarity one will coexist, each respecting its functions. Also, even the important representatives of the cotemporary pedagogy (J. Bruner, L. D’Hainaut) assert that the school subjects have their importance too in the knowledge organization and in putting them into practice. „Interdisciplinarity does not annul the subjects” (G. Văideanu), it just correlates them. The models of integrated content are unanimously recognized as being the most representative didactic innovations. In a synthesis study of the European Council, published since 1971, reveals “that it will be possible to impose a limit on encyclopaedism and «to the subjects mixture» which result from the encyclopaedism vision, provided that integration interdisciplinarity categories must be found based on which the curricula will be done” (D.Potolea). Nowadays, the approaching of the curricula in an integrated manner is a central issue within the curricular projects of the Romanian education reform, materialized by introducing in the curricula some integrated circular structure in order to fully re-evaluate the multiple valences of the interdisciplinarity, recognized as a result of testing them, the experiences from Western Europe and North America.

G. Văideanu asserted that the interdisciplinarity „involve a certain integration degree between the different fields of knowledge and different approaches, as well as the usage of some common language allowing changes of conceptual and methodological type”.
Investigative approach

The main objective of this chapter is the investigation of interdisciplinarity issue as it appears in the teachers’ opinions that find (or should) in education specific interdisciplinarity application ways. Thus we tried to do radiography of the theoretic and investigative characteristics as they appear in the documents and researches from the consulted literature. The reference points which substantiate the investigative approach prove that the interdisciplinarity it is not just a theoretic concept, but a field to which the practitioners from the educational field found viable application for it. In the researches done we tried to measure how the integration process of the contents is viewed from the primary teaching teachers’ point of view.

The research object

The present research aims at researching the teachers’ views regarding some aspects of the interdisciplinarity principles application. The fundamental objective of this research was the probing of the interdisciplinarity application process on a series of components as: the knowledge of the concept, the motivation of the data acquiring in this matter, the planning of the interdisciplinary activities, the efficiency of the interdisciplinarity concerning the primary education, the view upon the interdisciplinarity usage for a better understanding of the notions and the perception of the connections with the education’s finalities.

We also aimed at finding out if these perceptions are influenced by the respondents’ age, teaching degree and the environment they live in. The main objectives of the experiment were:

  • The identification of the teachers’ view on interdisciplinarity concept knowledge;
  • The analysis regarding the motivation of looking for information about interdisciplinarity;
  • The identification of the perception on interdisciplinarity applied in the lessons the teachers attended ;
  • The analysis of the data regarding the planning possibilities based on interdisciplinarity approaches;
  • The interpretation of the data regarding the interdisciplinarity role and efficiency.

Hypothesis 1
There are differences between the perceptions of the teachers who are completed in education regarding the concept of interdisciplinarity and I st teaching degree ones.

Hypothesis 2
There are differences regarding the perception on the planning frequency of the approaches in the interdisciplinarity manner between the ones who have teaching degrees and the ones who are just completed on teaching.

Hypothesis 3
There are differences with respect to looking for information about interdisciplinarity by the living environment.

Hypothesis 4
There are differences regarding the usage of the interdisciplinarity and the teachers’ work environment.

The method which underpinned the investigative approaches was the questionnaire based inquiry. The research was done on a plot of 56 teachers. Differentiated by the gender variable, the subjects plot contains 4 men and 52 women.

Differentiated by the age variable, the subjects plot comprises:

  • 6 teachers which are 20-30 years old,
  • 42 teachers are 30-40 years old,
  • 4 teachers are 40-50 years old,
  • 4 teachers are 50 years old.

By the teaching degree variable, the subjects plot comprises 14 teachers which have their initial teaching degree in education, 24 with 2nd teaching degree, and 18th with 1st teaching degree.

Research variables

Dependent variables:

  • the perception on interdisciplinarity knowledge;
  • the motivation of looking for information about interdisciplinarity;
  • the perception on interdisciplinarity applied in the lessons the teachers attended to;
  • the representation on the planning possibilities based on interdisciplinarity approaches;
  • the interdisciplinarity role and efficiency.

Independent variables:

  • Age: 4 categories: between  20 and 30 , 30 and 40 , 40 and 50 and over 50 years old;
  • Teaching degree: three categories: initial teaching degree, IInd teaching degree and Istteaching degree;
  • Gender, two categories: masculine and feminine;

Instrument’s description

The research regarding the contents integration ways in educational training was done based on a questionnaire addressed to the plot described above. The questionnaire was based on ten items, and applied in May – June 2010. The items have three types of answers: very much, much, a little or many times, less times or at all.

The items from this questionnaire refer to obtaining data regarding:

  • The teachers’ perception on knowing the interdisciplinaire concept;
  • Data about the motivation of searching for information about interdisciplinarity;
  • Views on interdisciplinarity applied in the lessons the teachers attended;
  • Data regarding the possibilities of planning based on interdisciplinary approaches;
  • Data regarding the interdisciplinarity efficiency;
  • Information regarding the interdisciplinarity part in reality knowing;
  • Information regarding the interdisciplinarity usage with the aim of making the children to pay greater attention.

Work procedure

The questionnaires were applied in May – June 2010 due to some pre-university education teachers’ meetings.  There have been applied many questionnaires only 56 of these being valid.  The subjects were informed about the research’s usefulness and results and were asked to take part in the study. They were assured about the answers confidentiality.
For the data statistic processing we used the SPPS program.

Results and discussions

Hypothesis 1

There are differences between the perception of the teachers with initial teaching degree and the Ist teaching degree ones, with respect to the interdisciplinarity concept. It was found out that between the initial teaching degree teachers and the Ist degree ones, it is a view difference (t (56) =1,936, p=0,047) on the interdisciplinarity concept. We can notice that the average difference (initial teaching degree average = 2,00, and Ist teaching degree average = 1,77) indicate the fact that those who are more experienced and are more preoccupied with their professional development know better information about this concept.

This leads us to the idea that there should be presented more information in the initial training as well as in the continuous one, theoretical and applicative elements from the interdisciplinarity field.

Hypothesis 2

There are differences regarding the view on the planning frequency of the steps in interdisciplinary manner between those who have a teaching degree and the ones with initial teaching degree. This hypothesis was denied, the significance threshold being over 0,05. This means that at the interdisciplinary point of view planning there are no differences between the ones who are more experienced and Ist teaching degree and the one with less experience and the initial teaching degree.

At theoretical level, the teachers’ view might be that they plan the contents in an interdisciplinary way. The teachers who took part in the subjects plot answered, in a great percentage, that they use interdisciplinary planning. But almost 10% of them assert that they never planned using this concept.

Hypothesis 3

There are differences regarding the research for information about the interdisciplinarity with respect to the living environment. We could notice that the averages difference as a result of the answers processing is significant (p=0,001 and the average difference =0, 41). This means that the teachers who work in the town have the tendency of looking for more information about interdisciplinarity. This might be  explained by the great number of continuous training courses to which the schools from the town take part in, but also by the efforts of researching different subjects aiming at writing publications too (greater for the ones in the town).

We could notice as well, as a result of the statistic analysis (Pearson Correlation) that it is a strong positive link ( r(54)= 0,342 and p=0,01) between those who look for information about the interdisciplinarity and those who plan this way. The teachers who are motivated to find out information about this subject are those who take into account these when they plan the teaching steps.

Hypothesis 4

There are differences regarding the interdisciplinarity usage and the teachers’ work environment. This hypothesis is confirmed too. We can assert, that for the subjects plot investigated, the interdisciplinarity usage depends of the respondents living environment (t (2, 06) and p =0,043). The teachers from the urban side consider that the interdisciplinarity is more efficient than the ones in the countryside.
IV.5. The investigative approaches conclusions

The present research aimed at analyzing to what extent the usage of the interdisciplinary approaches is known and viewed as being efficient. The results confirm three of the four hypotheses. Thus, we can assert that the interdisciplinarity is a phenomenon known especially by those who have more experience in teaching, but also by the ones that live in town.  At the same time, the teachers from the urban side look more for information about the new interdisciplinary then those who are in the countryside.

For a change, the ones who have their initial teaching degree as opposed to the ones with Ist teaching degree have no approaches significantly different for the interdisciplinary teaching planning.

Limits of the research, possible development directions

A first limit would be given by the questionnaire’s preparing, by means of which we collected the data to be processed. We only had objective items which brought a plus of information on the presentations linked to the researched subject, but also have the disadvantage of diminishing the possibilities of answering of the interviewed ones. The number of possible answers has been relatively limited as they had three possible choices.

A second possible limit is given by the fact that the investigated plot should have been more comprehensive and diverse (from many types of teachers and from many counties or school types from the study area or from the country). We aim at re-researching the subject on a well built plot, having this time, the possibility of doing a comparison with the obtained results in this case. The results can also be validated by other research methods.

As future analysis directions we would like to probe other aspects of the efficiency and interdisciplinary planning application, as:

• The possibility for this ”culture of interdisciplinary transfers” to be done during teachers initial or continuous training;
• Data correlation with the information obtained at the other research and tools questionnaires which could validate the results.

We hope for our next investigative approaches to underline the efficacy and applicability of the multiple possibilities in this field.

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prof. Cristiana Spatariu

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