What is interdisciplinary learning?

According to expert Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs in her book Interdisciplinary Curriculum: Design and Implementation, the interdisciplinary approach “consciously applies methodology and language from more than one discipline to examine a central theme, issue, problem, topic, or experience.” 

Through interdisciplinary learning, teachers explore relevant connections between different disciplines to create a more stimulating and less fragmented experience for students. This can be achieved by proposing, for example, a biology project that draws from mathematical concepts such as probability and statistics. This methodology gains more space in schools as educators at all levels promote the many benefits of interdisciplinary learning…

Authentic learning in a real-life context

Students are often frustrated because they feel a significant disconnect between the concepts learned in the classroom and their practical experiences. An interdisciplinary approach allows students to link theory to experience, rooting the content in real-life situations and making the learning more meaningful.

Deeper learning and critical thinking

By joining theory and application in the classroom, each topic can be explored more deeply than it would in a strictly theoretical approach. This way, students can better understand different perspectives on a subject. Students are also more challenged in an interdisciplinary scenario; invited to consider different concepts across different fields and develop stronger critical thinking skills.

Consolidated learning

Learning by experience is far more effective than learning strictly in theory in many aspects of life, and education is no different. When students work with various ideas from different fields, they synthesize concepts from different perspectives and effectively consolidate the knowledge acquired.

Explore topics across a range of subject boundaries

The boundaries between fields are blurred in an interdisciplinary classroom. Students are required to work with concepts from different areas simultaneously and even encouraged to bring further external knowledge to the table. By removing the imposed barriers between subjects, students can acquire new knowledge in a much wider pool of subjects.

Transferable skills

What we learn in a classroom seldom is meant to stay within the confines of said classroom. Even the theoretical concepts are supposed to be applied in a particular situation. The practical skills developed through interdisciplinary education (such as critical thinking, creativity, research, and synthesis) can be used in future learning and professional experiences.

Enhance employability

Employers in any sector intensely value these skills acquired through interdisciplinary learning. In most jobs, you will be required to work with teams formed by specialists in different fields and, consequently, deal with different approaches to the same topic simultaneously. The critical thinking and problem-solving skills developed by interdisciplinary education, along with a robust collaborative mindset, can make you just the employee recruiters are constantly on the lookout for.

We are all moving in this direction

The academic world has, traditionally, been divided. Ideas are sorted into the fields that best accommodate the work carried out. When these ideas reach universities, they are further divided into departments, creating a sense of belonging to the professors and researchers. Even though some fields allow for more liberty when joining different concepts than others, this structural separation of areas ultimately limits the collaboration between subjects.

However, researchers and educators are aware of this limitation and pushing to make room for more interdisciplinary research and teaching in academia. In many universities, courses are designed with cross-disciplinarity in mind, often integrating subjects from different fields in a single program. Students can also take classes in other departments, exploring areas that wouldn’t necessarily be associated with their degree of choice.

These universities have their eyes on the future. As a graduate student, choosing a university that will encourage you to seek different paths and give you the necessary support to develop the valuable skills that come with interdisciplinary learning is the first step in guaranteeing a solid education and many advantages for the job market.

ESSCA

ESSCA School of Management, one of the most renowned management schools in Europe, with over 112 years of history, is one such school. It has earned accreditation from the highest European accreditation bodies and is a member of the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles, a prestigious association that comprises the best business and engineering schools. 

ESSCA’s eight campuses are located in prime environments for student development, including Paris, Budapest, and Shanghai. The school also offers excellent opportunities for internationalization thanks to its network of over 270 partner universities in 56 countries.

Its interdisciplinary courses in science and humanities nourish the culture and creativity of students, while a fourth year (Programme Grande Ecole) will blend different profiles. From the start of the 2022-23 academic year, students will take a new block of complementary courses incorporated into the master’s degrees.

This transitory “Advanced Management Skills” semester, amounting to 180 hours, will develop students' leadership and management skills: exercising leadership, communicating, managing, operational positioning of a strategy and its deployment, using information and data, managing a budget, assessing environmental and societal impact, and more. This will bring together students of all cultures and demographics, combining students with backgrounds in engineering, sciences, and arts, among others.

“The semester will offer a genuine opportunity to learn to work with people from differing backgrounds,” says Franck Gavoille, Director of the Grande Ecole programme.

Its MSc Master of Science Global Business Management also blends disciplines, helping students with a technical background become efficient, responsible, forward-thinking executives. Graduate careers include global operations manager, supply chain manager, international project manager, area manager, and consultant.

An innovative and high-quality pedagogy is at the center of ESSCA’s priorities. The school has created the Institute of Applied Pedagogy, a department dedicated to overseeing experimentation, training, and innovation in the classroom and advising the faculty. The Institute is committed to adapting course contents to societal changes and guaranteeing the best possible outcome for students’ learning experience.

International pedagogical awards have also recognized the school’s outstanding teaching, such as the ‘MOOC of the Year’ awarded by My Mooc, Le Journal du Net (JDN), and Google France. The American Association for Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) has also awarded ESSCA’s ‘Initiation to Entrepreneurship’, celebrating the school’s innovation in pedagogy, research, technology, and entrepreneurship.

The faculty at ESSCA know the value of a comprehensive and interdisciplinary curriculum. Gwenaëlle Lairet, Deputy Director for Graduate Curriculum of the Master of Management & Masters of Science, says, “Students in management will take decisions in organizations. Therefore to do it, they need to fully understand their context (historical, geopolitical, social…) and be aware of contemporary issues such as environmental challenges or social inclusion. I am very proud to be at ESSCA and help the students to build their future.”

And Jean Charroin, ESSCA's Dean, says, “To address complex and systematic problems, we need leaders who are able to work comfortably across different fields of expertise. To do this, business education needs to address the way that society is changing, how the world of work has evolved and the differing skills that employers are looking for.

At ESSCA in 2019, the school seized the opportunity of the reform of the French baccalaureat to implement a radical transformation of its 5-year Master in Management. The underlying concept is to transform the programme in a kind of hub of knowledge and competencies enabling cross-dsiciplinary approaches: humanities (geopolitics, mediation, intellectual property…) and mathematics at the undergraduate level (40% management and economics, 20% mathematics, 20% humanities, and 20% foreign languages), and possible double competence at the master level (law, engineering, art and design, and political sciences.”

The unique and diverse learning environment at ESSCA welcomes bright students from all over the world. Guided by a faculty body of international experts and joining an alumni network of over 17,000 worldwide, students of all backgrounds can develop the professional and personal skills to stand out in the global job market.

If you want to embark on a transformative learning journey and join ESSCA’s vibrant student community, visit the website for more information on the offered programs and how to apply!

Article written in association with ESSCA.