The Model

The Decoding the Disciplines model was developed iteratively in the Freshman Learning Project (FLP), a summer seminar for faculty. Over the years the FLP realized that the mental operations required of undergraduates differ enormously from discipline to discipline and that these ways of thinking are rarely presented to students explicitly. The Decoding the Disciplines uses student bottlenecks as markers to indicate where disciplinary thinking is not being made clear to students. It takes advantage of the differences in thinking among academic fields in order to decode each individual discipline.

Following the model, faculty answer a series of questions to define crucial bottlenecks to learning, dissect the ways an expert deals with the issues that cause the bottleneck, and invent ways to model this thinking for students. After giving students an opportunity to practice these skills and receive feedback, each professor assesses student performance on these basic operations. Finally they share their results in order to synthesize their findings and take them public.

Middendorf, J., & Pace, D. (2004). Decoding the disciplines: A model for helping students learn disciplinary ways of thinking. New Directions in Teaching and Learning, 98, 1-12. 

The "Decoding the Disciplines" Cycle