Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Switch! - Cross-Disciplinary Learning

"The best way to have fun in science is to do something you are not trained for." - Seymour Benzer

Any student of creativity or innovation knows that changing disciplines seems to be a way of keeping 'fresh' and getting new ideas. Louis Pasteur got his start in crystallography, but then started solving problems in fermentation when a student of him brought a problem to him from a factory. When a devastation of silkworms happened in Europe, they call Pasteur who exclaimed, "But I know nothing of silkworms." Nevertheless, he ended up solving the problem of silkworms and crossing over into the fields of microbiology and immunology.

In Root-Berstein's study of innovators, he found "In every case that I have been able to examine, researchers who continued to be productive past middle age changed fields regularly. In effect they periodically returned to the state of a novice by taking up a new subject. They broke out of the patterns of work and thought to which they had become accustomed."

Maybe it's as Nobel Prize winner Peter Debye said, "...ask for people who have enough brain power that they at least have a feeling of how to handle a new problem. The specific nature of the problem is not important."

What does these people look like as young people - well we don't know for sure, but we have a hunch. We see some extraordinarly bright kids who have very wide ranging interests. Sometimes they are not easily contained by the classroom, but the journey sure looks very interesting.

The Life and Times of Louis Pasteur
Transdisciplinary Evolution of Education
OJR article: Teaching Convergence
Economics of Cross Pollination
Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning
Teaching Across Disciplines
UD PBL -- Jan. '95 About Teaching
Teaching Across Disciplines
Successful Interdisciplinary Teaching
Cross Disciplinary Field Trips

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