Ways to Get Involved

Now entering its second year of a three-year pilot, we have a few ways in which faculty can get involved in the work of the Department right now.

To explore any of these opportunities, please contact me (dfox@andover.edu).   

1.  Acknowledging or Revamping Current Courses

Because the faculty offers more than 300 distinct courses each year, it is difficult for any one person to be familiar with all of them.  If you currently teach a single or multi-section course that you think is consistent with the goals of the Department, or if you want to revamp a single or multi-section course that is currently offered to make it more consistent with the goals of the Department, please let me know.

2.  Offering New Courses

If you have an idea for a new course, or are already developing a new course, that you think is consistent with the goals of the Department or that you want to make more consistent with the goals of the Department, I will work with you and others to answer many questions, including:

  • Is this new course a replacement of a course currently in our academic program, or is it an addition to it?  (With a finite number of students, it is easier to replace a current course than to offer an additional one).
  • If it is an addition to our academic program, where will the students come from?  What are they likely to not be taking in order to take this new course?
  • For the teacher, is this new course a replacement for a course she already teaches, or is it an addition? 
  • If it is an addition, what course/section will she not be teaching?  Will that course/section not be offered at all, or will someone else need to cover that course/section? 
  • A similar line of inquiry needs to be addressed for each additional teacher involved in a new course.

The Academic Council must approve all new courses.  For a new course to appear in the next year’s Course of Study, which maximizes the chances for adequate student enrollment, it should be approved by the end of Winter term.

3.  Leading a Colloquium

For ten years, we have used a colloquium model in which one member of the faculty serves as the lead teacher for a course on any topic that invites connections across disciplines, from “Relativity, Incompleteness, and Subjectivity” to “Justice, Law, Tyranny,” from “Darwin” to “Conservatism.”  In this model, the lead teacher coordinates the course while ten to twenty different members of the faculty come into the class for one or two sessions to offer their own take on the topic, and the students are responsible, ultimately, for putting the course together.

Leaders of past colloquia report that it offers a unique type of intellectual engagement and is great professional development, collaborating with a range of colleagues from disciplines across the school. 

4.  Creating and Sharing Contained Curricular and Pedagogical Units

Each year, many of us call on colleagues to come to our own classes and share their expertise with our own students.  We often identify such expertise by pure serendipity, and we seldom able to sustain this type of informal yet direct interaction.  Two long-term functions of the Department are to serve a match-making function and to house contained curricular or pedagogical units that others might use in their own classes. 

If you have a lesson plan or unit plan that you think others might be able to adapt to their own courses, we would like to collect, organize, and share those.  Perhaps you are a member of the History and Social Science Department and have a lesson or unit on redlining that others outside your department could use, or perhaps you are a member of the Music Department and have some exercises in close-listening that could be helpful in other disciplines, or…. 

5.  Coordinating Schedules to Share Students

This year, we are piloting a less formal collaboration between colleagues.  We are arranging for a group of 9th graders to work with the same English 100 and Art 225 teachers.  These two teachers are in conversation with each other and hope to leverage what the students are learning in the other class. 

6.  Joining a Critical Friends Group

All members of the Department participate in “critical friends groups”:  small groups of faculty from various disciplines that meet a few times each term to enhance their own teaching and learning.  All members of the faculty are invited to join a group.

7.  Courses with Colleagues

This year, we are offering an interdisciplinary course taught in the academic program to members of the faculty:  “This is America, The Wire.”  We hope to continue this pilot, with a different course, during the 2020-2021 academic year. 

Dreamin’ of Bob Dylan

While riding on a train goin’ west
I fell asleep for to take my rest
I dreamed a dream that made me sad
Concerning myself and the first few things I had

All right. 

It was actually a bus. 

To Choate.

With the Andover swimming and diving team.

January 2011.

I was, though, in the hypnagogic moment.

And I was listening to Bob Dylan.  


In that space between wakefulness and slumber, I realized time was approaching the 50th anniversary of Dylan’s recording his first album, and I knew immediately a course on Dylan needed to be offered. 

The disembodiment of the passive voice captures my attitude:  a course on Dylan needed to be offered.  By whom?  Who other than Christopher Ricks or Richard Thomas could teach a class on Dylan?  Perhaps I could come up with a week or two of stuff but an entire term?  Somewhere between the exits for Connecticut Routes 15 and 68—and in the midst of listening to “Desolation Row” from Bootleg, volume 7— though, I discovered the idea:  collaboration.  After affirming my instincts with Chris Jones, Instructor in History, I wrote the faculty soliciting their support, and by September, we were running the course. 

Continue reading “Dreamin’ of Bob Dylan”

Welcome to the New Endeavor

Welcome to the website/blog of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA. 

Through this site, we hope to learn from, and share ideas and experiences among, a wide range of people committed to interdisciplinary teaching and learning as well as to education as a means of improving the lives of people and bettering our world for all. 

Across the site, we seek to offer information about our efforts—identifying those working most closely with the Department at Andover, describing the courses we offer, highlighting our public outreach—and to share resources that we have identified and utilized.  We welcome suggestions and corrections regarding any of the material housed on our more static pages.

With this blog, we invite people who currently work and study at Andover, our alumni and former faculty, and colleagues and friends from a variety of professions and positions to share their thinking and observations with others.  If you would like to provide a blog entry or respond to a blog already posted, please contact us.

As “Interdisciplinary Work at Andover:  Purpose and Scope” makes clear, in many ways, the origins of the Department can be traced back more than forty years, so I link to several key documents that may be of interest:

Phyllis Powell, et al., “Draft Report of the 1977-1979 Curriculum Committee” (1979)

Tony Rotundo, et al., “Report of the Steering Committee” (1996)

David Fox and Linda Griffith, et al., “Final Report and Recommendations of the Access to Success Working Group” (2013)

Please click the “Follow Department of Interdisciplinary Studies” to be notified when new posts are available. 


David Fox