Using Narrative to Build Community and Create Knowledge in the Interdisciplinary Classroom


  • Barbara Schneider University of Calgary
  • Daryl Caswell University of Calgary


Narratology, HIC, 2003


This paper tells two stories about interdisciplinarity: one is a practical story about interdisciplinary teaching in an acoustics course for students from both music and engineering; the other is a theoretical story about how Walter Fisher's ideas about narrative can be combined with principles of participative inquiry to provide a conceptual framework for the interdisciplinary classroom. We call on Fisher's idea that all forms of human communication are narrative at heart to advocate the use of storytelling in the classroom. The use of narrative makes it possible to initiate students from different disciplines into abstract knowledge in a field of study, create a classroom community that encourages the participation of all students, and produce new interdisciplinary knowledge that is unique to the members of that class.

Author Biographies

Barbara Schneider, University of Calgary

 Dr. Barbara Schneider is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Communication and Culture at the University of Calgary, where she teaches in the communications studies program. Her research focuses on the study of narrative in educational, organizational, and interpersonal communication. She is currently studying the narratives of people with schizophrenia and of mothers of people with schizophrenia. In her previous career, she was a violinist in the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.

Daryl Caswell, University of Calgary

Dr. Daryl Caswell is a Senior Instructor in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Calgary. He has graduate degrees in both engineering and music. He uses the classroom environment described in this article for a multidisciplinary design course for 600 first-year engineering students and for professional development seminars in acoustics. He is also a professional musician, formerly with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and currently with the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra, where he is principal horn.