“Because Subjects Don’t Exist in a Bubble”: Middle School Teachers Enacting an Interdisciplinary Curriculum

Michael Cassidy and Gillian Puttick
Cassidy, M., Puttick, G. “Because Subjects Don’t Exist in a Bubble”: Middle School Teachers Enacting an Interdisciplinary Curriculum. J Sci Educ Technol (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-021-09951-y


Research shows that interdisciplinary learning approaches increase student knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. However, there is little empirical evidence about teacher enactment of interdisciplinary curricula, especially at the middle school level. In the Designing Biomimetic Robots (BioRobots) project, teachers received professional development and enacted an interdisciplinary robotics curriculum in middle school classrooms. The purpose of this study was to explore how a science and an engineering teacher enacted an interdisciplinary curriculum, designed to support teachers in both disciplines. We sought to understand the choices they made during curricular implementation and the ways in which they supported students’ use of disciplinary practices. We conducted participant observations, collected teacher implementation logs, and interviewed teachers. Analysis was through deductive coding and analytic memos. Results indicate that both teachers’ enactment aligned with the overarching curricular goals. However, as others have found, the specific material adaptations and enactment choices they made were all influenced by their disciplinary background, goals, and the school context. Careful design of this educative curriculum supported the teachers to teach disciplinary content and practices outside their area of expertise. One implication for the design of educative curriculum is to make explicit the commonalities across the disciplines.