The purpose of this paper is to review the literature on interdisciplinary units as used in the middle school emphasizing those studies that have examined the benefits of interdisciplinary units and how they are implemented. Based on the reviewed research, a testable hypothesis about interdisciplinary units as used in middle school is proposed.
Research on the best practices at the middle school level suggests that early adolescent students need an educational environment that is unlike elementary or high school. Young people between the ages of 10 and 14 are experiencing rapid changes in their cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development. In order to meet these needs, middle school curriculum must provide opportunities for students to broaden their knowledge base, explore areas of interest, and acquire a sense of self as they seek to understand their place within the larger society. (p. 1885)
According to Lounsbury (1992) since the 1960s, one way of providing middle school children with the kind of curricula and instruction that they need is through interdisciplinary eduction. In this regard, Lounsbury defines an "interdisciplinary unit" as a class of students who share the same teachers for different course subjects using an integrated curriculum. For example, Brown, Goldston and North (2000) have developed an interdisciplinary unit for eighth grade students in which they simultaneously learn math and astronomy.
The basic elements of interdisciplinary units, according to Lounsbury (1992) include having teachers show relationships between subjects so students can have a fuller understanding of them, e.g., the relationship between mathematics, science and reading. Further, these units attempt to work on common goals using a common set of rules and expectations.
How successful is the interdisciplinary unit in terms of assisting students' efforts to learn. According to Lounsbury (1992), these units are associa...