Turning Curricula Every which Way but Loose: Flipping, Blending and Integrating in an Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program

Concurrent Session 10
Streamed Session Blended

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Brief Abstract

This session reviews a flipped, blended and integrated model of learning design and facilitation in an interdisciplinary doctoral program, reviewing best practices for course design and curricula integration based upon active, collaborative and integrative pedagogies.  We also present evidence of interdisciplinary knowledge integration and application resulting from this model.


Paige McDonald is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Research and Learning at The George Washington University. She is currently working to promote blended learning and develop blended courses in Health Professions education. Paige's research interests include blended learning, collaborative learning, reflective practice, and course design for higher levels of learning.

Extended Abstract

Imagine it is December 2015.  Your new, interdisciplinary doctoral program has just been approved, and your dean tells you the first cohort will enter in August.  Now you face the challenge of creating the curriculum and facilitation approach for a low-residency, blended PhD that will integrate knowledge across multiple disciplines….GO!

In August 2016, the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) launched an interdisciplinary PhD in Translational Health Sciences (THS).  Designed as a blended, low-residency program of study, the curriculum integrates knowledge from multiple disciplines to develop future scholars who can generate interdisciplinary knowledge in future research.  To achieve this pedagogical goal, we have adopted an active, collaborative, flipped, blended model to accelerate interdisciplinary learning.  We do not lecture in our monthly on-campus weekends!  We have found success with active, collaborative and integrative learning activities, which challenge students to apply knowledge from all courses both during on-campus weekends and in final assignments.

“Interdisciplinary” (Klein, 1990; Klein & Newell, 1997) has become a buzzword in higher education, particularly with regard to health professions education in which graduates will work in interdisciplinary teams to optimize patient health in increasingly complex contexts.  Yet, little guidance is available on how to achieve “interdisciplinary” in doctoral programs, particularly with regard to integrating disciplinary perspectives and curricula to develop measurable competencies and encouraging innovative, collaborative models among faculty who teach different courses but must foster knowledge integration across the courses to achieve programmatic goals.  

In this session, we present our model of learning design and facilitation, to include best practices we have developed for faculty teaching our courses. We will also our plan for researching the impact of our curricular design and delivery on student learning and achievement of interdisciplinary program competencies. Our objectives for the session include:

  • Review a flipped, blended, integrated model of learning design and delivery which promotes interdisciplinary knowledge generation and application
  • Review best practices for blended learning design and facilitation at a doctoral level
  • Review plan for researching impact of curricular design and delivery on student learning and achievement of interdisciplinary program competencies