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Rubric for Discipline-based and Interdisciplinary Inquiry Studies

   Galileo Educational Network    September 16, 2014    Inquiry

A discipline constitutes a distinctive way of thinking about the world. Distinctive ways of thinking characterize the professions and are modeled by skilled practitioners, those who are responsible for advancing knowledge within a discipline (Gardner, 2009).   Discipline-based inquiry ensures students gain mastery of the major schools of thought, including science, mathematics, history, etc.

As Newmann, Bryk and Nagaoka (2001) found, students who engaged in more intellectually rigorous learning immersed within the disciplines, gained in-depth understanding of limited topics, rather than superficial acquaintance with many.

Discipline based inquiry is the acknowledgment that students learn best when the subjects are meaningful to them.  Student tasks must have “an authenticity, [and a sense] that the work being done in classrooms is ‘real work’ reflective of the living realities of the discipline being taught” (WNCP, 2011).  When students and teachers pose guiding questions, problems, or tasks that professionals in the field would recognize as important, they can work and learn from experts and be guided towards responses and performances of learning that are meaningful, sophisticated, and powerful.  This view of the nature and purpose of learning is supported by a growing body of literature urging educators to design curricula, teaching, and learning experiences where students have the opportunity to “learn their way around a discipline” (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000, p. 139) by engaging in authentic intellectual tasks and opportunities for genuine knowledge creation (Darling-Hammond, 2008; Jardine, Clifford & Friesen, 2008; OECD, 2008; Perkins, 2009; Sawyer, 2006).

The purpose of this rubric is to support teachers as they strengthen pedagogical practices and design learning. These design and pedagogical processes require teachers to clearly articulate what they want their students to understand and be able to do. It requires teachers to identify and scaffold the learning in which students engage in discipline ways of knowing in order to deepen understanding. A well-designed study embodies the following 8 characteristics of discipline-based inquiry.

  1. Authenticity
  2. Academic Rigor
  3. Assessment Sponsors Deep Learning and Improved Instruction
  4. Adds Value Beyond the School
  5. Students Learn With Digital Technologies
  6. Students Engage in Active Exploration
  7. Connecting with Expertise
  8. Elaborated Forms of Communication