The Case for Combining Content

Teaching interdisciplinary content is among the best ways we, as educators, can prepare our students to engage with the complexities of life, education, and the workplace in the current world. Yet to many teachers who have invested thousands of hours in a specialization, the notion of introducing an “outside” subject in the classroom comes with equal parts excitement and terror.

As adults, and as educators, interdisciplinary teaching is exciting because we realize that the practical application of the material we impart in our students will rarely be used in a vacuum. Regardless of profession, one will most likely be asked to analyze data, provide evidence to support a viewpoint, apply mathematical reasoning, consider social and historical context, or consider environmental outcomes. One does not simply get away from mathematics by pursuing a career in the humanities–believe me, I’ve tried.

Informally, many pedagogs already teach in an interdisciplinary manner. As an English teacher, I always introduced Khaled Hesseini’s The Kite Runner by contextualizing it with an overview of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Many TeachRock users are Social Studies and History teachers who began their interdisciplinary journey by teaching “We Shall Overcome” as part of a Civil Rights lesson, but then found that music can help students engage in many other discussions as well.  

For some, however, the prospect of interdisciplinary teaching can lead to insecurities. Am I doing this right? Do I know enough about the overlapping content area to teach this well? Will the perspective I present contradict what my students are learning in that designated content area? All of the above are valid questions, and the pursuit of a “yes” to each makes interdisciplinary instruction a worthwhile endeavor.

A former colleague of mine was fond of reminding those of us in the classroom that teaching is one of the few professions where each cycle has a distinctive beginning, middle, end and built-in time for reflection. As your school year winds down, or summer ramps up, for those of you lucky enough to already be on break, perhaps it is the right time to reflect on this year and consider how applying a broader interdisciplinary approach would change the classroom experience for your students.


By Christine Nick
Rock and Roll Forever Foundation