Disciplinary authenticity: Enriching the reforms of introductory physics courses for life-science students
Special aspects of education
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AbstractEducators and policy makers have advocated for reform of undergraduate biology education, calling for greater integration of mathematics and physics in the biology curriculum. While these calls reflect the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of biology research, crossing disciplinary boundaries in the classroom carries epistemological challenges for both instructors and students. In this paper we expand on the construct of authenticity to better describe and understand disciplinary practices, in particular, to examine those used in undergraduate physics and biology courses. We then apply these ideas to examine an introductory biology course that incorporates physics and mathematics. We characterize how instructors asked students to use interdisciplinary tools in this biology course and contrast them with the typical uses of these tools in physics courses. Finally, we examine student responses to the use of mathematics and physics in this course, to better understand the challenges and consequences of using interdisciplinary tools in introductory courses. We link these results to the reform initiatives of introductory physics courses for life-science students.