Interdisciplinary Learning: preparing for the future

14 Mar 2019 01:22 PM

SQA Chief Executive, Dr Janet Brown, contributed to the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s recent conference, Interdisciplinary Learning: Creative Thinking for a Complex World.

Dr Brown participated in a panel session chaired by Ken Muir, Chief Executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland. She was joined in the discussion, which focused on examples of Interdisciplinary Learning (IDL) in practice, by Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive of Education Scotland and David Coyne, Director of the Centre for Work-Based Learning.

Dr Brown discussed the importance of interdisciplinary learning for young people, and how the experiences and skills it develops, enables young people to be prepared for their next steps – whether that is into work or to continue in education.

Dr Brown illustrated the power of interdisciplinary learning, by highlighting SQA’s suite of qualifications, including Advanced Highers, the Scottish Baccalaureate, and in particular, the Interdisciplinary Project unit. The aim of this unique project, at SCQF level 7, is to broaden candidates’ experience, extend their knowledge and understanding, develop cognitive and generic skills, build confidence, and develop an understanding of the interdependence of subjects.

Students in fifth and sixth year of secondary school can undertake a Scottish Baccalaureate in Expressive Arts, Languages, Science and Social Sciences. It requires three different courses, two of which have to be at Advanced Higher, one at Higher and the Interdisciplinary Project unit, which can also be taken as a standalone qualification.

Dr Brown commented: “In our fast changing world, providing qualifications, like our Interdisciplinary Project, that inspire our young people, is vital. The project gives them experiences across inter-connected subjects, in a range of environments. Recent examples include analysing the views of the public on important social issues, work-life balance, the popularity of graphic novels, classical music’s effect on productivity, and the impact of tourism on preservation.

“Interdisciplinary Learning is an engaging way to develop the foundations of twenty-first century skills in young people, which they will increasingly need as they take their next steps, in a world that is likely to be looking for a workforce and citizens, who are more agile and can adapt and be comfortable with change.”

Dr Brown continued, “Not only are young people learning how to use their initiative and work independently, they are taking their research into the community and workplace settings, boosting their communication, problem solving, employability, and enterprise skills, which in turn helps them develop into confident citizens, prepared for the future.”

Dr Brown also encouraged conference to think about how to further encourage interdisciplinary learning at other SCQF levels, how to embed it into work-based learning, and how it could be further recognised in entry requirements for higher education.

More information, as well as resources and case studies on the Interdisciplinary Project are available on the SQA website. Further information is also available on the Scottish Baccalaureate, along with videos featuring interviews with students and teachers of the Social Science and Expressive Arts Scottish Baccalaureate.