Book by: Smith, Barbara Leigh and McCann, John (Eds)
Review by: Ana Schuber
Academic Advisor
University of Alabama

Perhaps the most important aspect of any advisor’s job is program knowledge. Advisors can afford a lifeline to programs, acting as gatekeepers and sales representatives with power to recommend courses or programs to students.  Advising for an interdisciplinary program is never easy.  Students and parents often find it difficult to understand a program that seeks to prepare students to lead globally conscious, socially responsible, productive, satisfying, and ethical lives within a changing and diverse world when they are focused on a career and a six figure salary. 

At first glance Reinventing Ourselves simply appears to be a treatise on the glories of interdisciplinary studies. But further study shows that the Editors have done a marvelous job putting together articles that explain the history and advantages of the interdisciplinary academic world. With their smaller programs and service learning opportunities, interdisciplinary programs truly nurture of the concept of the learning community. They expand their vision outward to incorporate a re-visioned classroom and connect to the wider learning community.

It is important that advisors understand the opportunities interdisciplinarity can bring to 21st century students floundering in the traditional classroom setting.  Today’s traditional students, whose learning styles do not mimic those of their predecessors, are used to multi-tasking using a combination of technologies. Adult students bring with them an understanding of experiential learning and a desire to have their learning acknowledged and valued within the classroom.  Articles offered by Mark Pedelty, Janet F. Ott and Gary L Bornzin provide examples of teaching methods that utilize mass media, hands-on learning, and cross-discipline pedagogies that can make the classroom new and challenging.

The closing section of this text is devoted to a subject advisors know hits close to home: assessment.  The very nature of the interdisciplinary program, not to mention individual courses within it, requires different assessment methods.  This section covers such methods as student self-evaluation, experiential reflection, and non-written evaluation methods. 

I highly recommend this text to all advisors. There are few available texts helpful in defining the term interdisciplinary. This one does an excellent job bringing together a group of wide ranging essays to explain this fluid field of study.

Reinventing Ourselves:  Interdisciplinary Education, Collaborative Learning, and Experimentation in Higher Education. (2001). Book by Smith, Barbara Leigh and McCann, John (Eds). Review by Ana Schuber. 474 pp.  $49.95  (cloth). Anker Publishing Company, Inc.   #ISBN 1-882982-35-5.

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