Although innovative, these postwar visions for interdisciplinary learning ultimately failed to take root as disciplines became increasingly siloed. C.P. Snow’s famous 1959 critique of the “two-cultures” divide between science and the humanities reflected this pedagogical parting of ways. Recently, Michael Aaron Dennis has called for historians to revisit the pedagogical projects of the postwar era for twenty-first century higher education. He argues that today’s public “knows neither more nor less about science than they did in the 1950s” and advocates “coproduction” of knowledge about history and science. The need for humanistic approaches to STEM learning has taken on increasing relevance as societies grapple with climate change, rising health care costs, genetic engineering, and other such challenges.
Consequently, this panel surveys the current curricular landscape for pedagogical approaches that bridge the “two cultures” in the classroom. Its contributors also consider the challenges and future possibilities for such approaches. Presenter David Dennis, with co-authors Rob Lawson and Jessica Pisano, provide an overview of their project at Dean College to create and implement two general education courses that combine historical pedagogy with laboratory science whereby students perform historical experiments. Using qualitative and quantitative data gathered, they examine how this curricular model impacts learning outcomes, learning experiences, and attitudes toward science. Vivien Hamilton’s paper relates the experience of co-teaching a course at Harvey Mudd College in the history of genetics and race with a biologist to a group of science students. She describes the narrative arc of the course, as well as decisions about pedagogy, and reflects on the challenges of team teaching across disciplines. Tianna Uchacz outlines the Making and Knowing Project at Columbia University and shares insights from this pedagogy-driven research. The Project has taught over a hundred graduate students historical, hands-on materials-based, and digital research methods. The Project aims to provide an adaptable and scalable implementation guide and resource set for other instructors to draw on in their own teaching and research.