Are you confused by the uses of the words "interdisciplinary," "multidisciplinary," and "cross-disciplinary"? If so, you're not alone. Even many of us who work on a college campus have trouble keeping these terms straight. So we've compiled the following to help us all keep track:
Interdisciplinary: integrating more than one discipline, e.g., a program such as women's studies in which our students gain blended knowledge and skills from art, business, communications, health studies, history, literature, music, philosophy, politics, psychology, sport studies, writing, and probably a few other fields.
Multidisciplinary: juxtaposing several disciplines but without a systematic integration or combination of these disciplines. For example, a conference on women's history since the 1960s might be multidisciplinary, as it might feature speakers from business, health sciences, history, politics, and writing who give their perspectives on the topic through the lens of their own discipline, without considering the other disciplines at any depth.
Cross-disciplinary: interacting across multiple disciplines for the composition of one discipline. For example, organizational communication, learning, and design (OCLD) is a cross-disciplinary field, as it draws from communications, business, education, human resources, graphic arts, and other disciplines. The same is true for health education, which uses techniques and pedagogies from both health and education.
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