IDL Resources and further reading
The IDL Network is a place where IDL resources and learning ideas, and resources about IDL, may be accessed, added and shared. The resources below contribute to the exemplification, development and understanding of IDL.
The diverse resources here provide insights into the wide variety of ideas, approaches, starting points and cross-disciplinary connections for IDL development. They draw together knowledge, understanding and skills from different subjects and curriculum areas at various curriculum levels to solve a problem, answer a question or develop new understandings and insights. They facilitate learning across subject boundaries, enrich subject knowledge and enable learners to use their learning beyond the situation in which the learning initially occurred.
The resources may be used as presented, adapted to meet constraints of time, level, learning outcomes and prior knowledge, or parts of a resource used in other learning contexts. There are also summaries of learning plans and learning ideas that have already been delivered in the classroom or which require development prior to classroom delivery. Many of these could be imaginatively extended to encompass wider applications and links to other areas of learning. Most resources provide explicit links to the curriculum.
(1) IDL teaching resources from the University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh has created IDL resources for teachers through its award-winning1 Open Education Resources (OER) service (www.open.ed.ac.uk/edinburghs-oers). These resources may be downloaded free of charge from TES Resources via the OER website. Resources support the Broad General Education (BGE) phase of Curriculum for Excellence, span levels 0 to 4 and cover seven curriculum areas, with the majority including Sciences and Social Subjects. The resources can be accessed at:
These resources form a subset of a wider set of resources available at open.ed and at:
They are accompanied by Curriculum for Excellence learning outcomes and objectives, and are designed to be easily re-used, extended and adapted, in whole or in part, for different classroom scenarios and curriculum levels.
Interdisciplinary learning is often confused with multidisciplinary learning. Simply linking discrete subjects with no immediate connection together around a theme is not by itself interdisciplinary, but is multidisciplinary. Multidisciplinary learning ideas may create learning contexts within which IDL may be constructed. A good example of multidisciplinary learning at level 2 is available at:
Most of the above resources have been created, developed and delivered through collaborations between classroom teachers, senior undergraduates and initial teacher education students. These resources have attracted tens of thousands of downloads (see tes.com link above), particularly during the recent extended periods of lockdown and school closures. Many other resources are available at open.ed and new resources are regularly created and uploaded.
(2) Environment and Sustainability Resources: COP26
Environment and sustainability are prominent themes of many of the interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and related Open Education Resources available through the links above. These resources were created by senior students and colleagues working in the broad area of Earth and environment. With the approaching (26th) 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow on November 1-12 2021, we have collated teaching resources at open.ed that are broadly related to the theme of environment and sustainability. These may be accessed at:
Given the deeply interdisciplinary and cross-curricular nature of the environmental and related challenges the world now faces, most of these resources are also interdisciplinary.
In support of the upcoming COP26 meeting, a large and rich set of online educational resources on climate change and environmental sustainability is also available at:
This new online portal is supported by Scottish Government and brings together activities, resources, events and related programmes from many diverse sources. These incorporate a wide range of resources relevant to the environment and sustainability, including educational resources from University of Edinburgh’s Open Education Resources:
and online resources created by colleagues at Our Dynamic Earth Science Centre:
The Sustainability Partnerships (Creative partnerships for a sustainable planet) is a not-for-profit organisation that exists to raise awareness and promote education about climate change and environmental issues:
It works collaboratively with young people and partner organisations to foster wider community engagement on these important issues. The Sustainability Partnerships has developed a series of platforms which give voice to young people on the climate and environmental issues that matter the most to them (“The Future Speaks”) in which young people discuss their concerns with climate and sustainability professionals and politicians through Q&A sessions. These provide a stimulating complementary format for learners and teachers to adopt and to complement their environment and sustainability learning, enhancing and deepening the engagement of learners and in particular their capacities to articulate their learning.
While COP26 is a critically important international conference if irreversible climate change is to be avoided, it is part of the long-term process of mitigating climate change and environmental degradation that will continue to challenge humanity and threaten life on Earth through coming decades. Learning and teaching resources around climate, environment and sustainability will surely remain topical.
(3) RSE IDL Conference posters
At the RSE’s 2019 IDL Conference, thirteen posters were presented to exemplify IDL through a diverse range of content, contexts, topics and approaches to IDL design and delivery:
These span levels 1 to 3 of the BGE and seven curriculum areas, with a wide range of content and ideas. A review of key features of these posters is provided in the IDL Conference Report:
The full teaching resources for three of these posters are also freely available (see (1) above).
An introduction and guide to the posters (one of the poster series) provides a set reflective questions about poster content, which invite us to consider in what ways and to what extent the projects and the underlying learning ideas exemplify IDL.
(4) Education Scotland
Education Scotland has also published a wide variety of interdisciplinary learning resource ideas for the BGE spanning all curriculum areas and levels at:
IDL creation is a collaborative process. Education Scotland recommends a curriculum design-cycle approach for IDL project development and ID curriculum-making at:
(5) Scottish Schools Education Research Centre (SSERC)
The SSERC website offers a range of STEM-based IDL resources and ideas at:
(6) The Natural Partners Project
This project began as a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh’s Moray House initial teacher education and the Forestry Commission. Students on PGDE Secondary science and technology courses participated in interdisciplinary planning and experience workshops and produced ideas for an interdisciplinary unit of work for secondary pupils.
The project has evolved to become more widely situated within STEAM input for student teachers. The website includes a selection of planning proposals which may be used as a basis for experienced teachers who are looking for ideas related to the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).
We invite and encourage IDL Network members to contribute and share IDL resources and links to resources at other locations. For further information see Contributing New Resources to the IDL Network below.
Articles about IDL
(1) Education Scotland
Education Scotland recently commissioned a series of curriculum co-design workshops on interdisciplinary learning with a large group of senior teachers and educators from across Scotland led by co-design consultants NoTosh (a design thinking agency). The RSE was invited to contribute to these workshops. The thought paper that emerged has recently been published by Education Scotland:
Education Scotland (2020) Interdisciplinary learning: ambitious learning for an increasingly complex world.
In parallel with the Interdisciplinary Learning workshops, a series of curriculum co-design workshops on Learner Pathways, also led by NoTosh consultants, has created a thought paper offering a radical rethink and vision for the Scottish education system in which subjects and traditional qualifications are no longer seen as the only way of measuring the success of Scotland’s schools or as the principal driver of its education system. The resulting thought paper provides a potentially rich and timely context for the development and implementation of IDL.
Education Scotland (2020) Learner pathways: A key to successful curriculum design.
Other resources and articles about IDL from Network members are welcome.
(2) GTCS: Teaching Scotland magazine
The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) has provided welcome support for IDL development in Scottish education. Following the RSE IDL Conference, the Teaching Scotland magazine has published a series of articles about IDL in each issue from Issue 79 (May 2019) onwards.
Many of these articles are written by poster and workshop presenters at the 2019 RSE IDL Conference.
(3) RSE IDL Advice Paper
As one of the outputs of the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s IDL Conference and the related work of its Education Committee, the Society has published an Advice Paper (February 2020) on “Embedding Interdisciplinary Learning in Scottish Schools”:
This sets outs the actions and conditions needed to support school-based IDL. This paper also contains an extensive up-to-date bibliography.
(4) Images as IDL Resources and Ideas
“A picture is worth a thousand words”. Complex and sometimes multiple ideas can often be conveyed by a single image, which communicates its meaning or essence more effectively than a verbal description. So it often is with interdisciplinary learning ideas. The IDL Network is a place where this adage may readily be applied. Several visual images have been introduced to suggest and convey the meaning and significance of some interdisciplinary learning ideas, contexts or processes. Other images – and suggestions for images – from Network members would be welcome to refresh an interdisciplinary image ‘gallery’.
Our world is by nature an “interdisciplinary” place in which events and processes of change in one domain impact on other areas of life. An image of the Earth from space tells many stories – where large populations live and work, in cities, close to coastlines, along rivers and in areas where resources that sustain life and work are readily available. Coastal areas vulnerable to sea-level rise may be identified.
An old painting or artefact can capture historical events or tell us about social, climatic and environmental conditions in which past civilisations lived, and the ideas, ways of life and worldviews that prevailed. Images can lead to unexpected insights and understandings, and promote deeper thinking and debate.
Suggestions for wider reading around interdisciplinary and related ways of learning are always welcome on the IDL Network. To get us started, we can recommend the recent books by David Epstein and Gillian Tett:
Epstein D (2019) Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialised World. Riverhead Books
Tett G (2015) The Silo Effect: Why every organisation needs to disrupt itself to survive. Abacus
Fletcher T (2022) A safer, fairer world can happen if we teach our children how to build it. The New European. https://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/the-education-reforms-britain-and-the-world-needs/
This hard-hitting article presents a critique of our ‘industrial’ education systems and outlines the sorts of skills necessary for living, working and becoming “globally agile” in the 21st century.
Contributing New Resources to the IDL Network
We invite and encourage Network members and readers to contribute and share new IDL resources, links to IDL and related resources, ideas, images, comments about IDL and recommendations for reading and learning about IDL. These will help us to build a vibrant and lively community of practice in which sharing and collaboration are key elements. New contributions may be flagged up, recommended and discussed through the Adding Material section in the About page.
Featured image: Europe at Night (from space). NASA. CC BY-SA 3.0