"Navigating the Disciplinary Fault Lines" in Science and in the Classroom: Undergraduate Neuroscience Classroom in Mind, Brain and Behavior at Harvard

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Association for Interdisciplinary Studies


This paper explores the key elements of success in the interdisciplinary teaching of neuroscience, using the example of two undergraduate seminars offered by the Mind, Brain, and Behavior (MBB) program at Harvard University. These elements include students’ and faculties’ disposition for boundary-crossing, their intellectual breadth and ability to cope with unanswered questions in science, and the particular organization of the curriculum which was designed to keep the students at the crossroads of many competing theories and to stimulate a search for synthesis. An institutional commitment to developing interdisciplinary curricula in neuroscience in the form of the MBB Interfaculty Initiative also serves as an important foundation for interdisciplinary teaching and learning. The two MBB seminars provide models of integrative curriculum in neuroscience, as instructors in the classroom reenact the actual interdisciplinary debate that defines the field of neuroscience itself. Founded on a belief in the inherent unity of the mind and the brain, neuroscience tries to find the connecting tissue between psychological and biological theories of the mind/brain. Keeping the search for a unified theory central to the discussion in the classroom, asking students to test the explanatory limits of each contributing discipline, and discussing the shortfalls of current integrative mind/brain thinking, instructors in both seminars are able to spark an interdisciplinary dialogue of the most compelling nature.




Nikitina, Svetlana. "“Navigating the Disciplinary Fault Lines” in Science and in the Classroom: Undergraduate Neuroscience Classroom in Mind, Brain, and Behavior at Harvard." Issues in Integrative Studies 20 (2002): 27-44.