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Multidisciplinary teaching: Taking the fear out of the unknown

Daniel Midgley
Discipline of Linguistics and Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, The University of Western Australia
As knowledge advances, we more commonly see the blending of traditionally disparate areas of study. Computational linguistics, for example, represents a synthesis of knowledge from linguistics and computer science. In university teaching, this multidisciplinarity offers unique strengths: students gain experience in a hitherto unknown area, and learn to combine knowledge from several domains. However, multidisciplinary teaching also presents challenges for students; they may have some experience in one area, but little in another. They may feel some anxiety at moving outside their area of knowledge.

This paper discusses current work on assisting the teaching process in multidisciplinary fields. It relates some experiences in teaching computational linguistics to linguistics students at UWA. This area poses some difficulty for linguistics students, most of whom have no prior knowledge of computer science. This paper presents ideas and recommendations for increasing students' comfort with new material in multidisciplinary fields, including peer teaching, the use of examples close to students' experience, and moving from the known to the unknown.

Please cite as: Midgley, D. (2003). Multidisciplinary teaching: Taking the fear out of the unknown. In Partners in Learning. Proceedings of the 12th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 11-12 February 2003. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2003/abstracts/midgley-abs.html

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Last revision: 16 Jan 2003. This URL: http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2003/abstracts/midgley-abs.html