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Statement versus expression: An interdisciplinary approach to the teaching of American history and American literature

1 December 1992


This paper examines the operation of an eleventh-grade interdisciplinary course which combines the contents of an American history class and an American literature class. The course is team-taught by a social studies teacher and an English teacher during the first two periods of the school day.

The interdisciplinary approach has its theoretical roots in the concept of the integrated curriculum, which seeks to connect the knowledge, concepts, and skills of the traditional subject areas in order to achieve a better understanding of the world and a better ability to deal with it. The interdisciplinary approach maintains the boundaries of the traditional subject areas but uses the natural connections between these areas to supplement and reinforce each other.

The conceptual framework for this paper is derived from John Dewey's distinction between statement and expression. "Statement," observed Dewey, "sets forth the conditions under which an experience of an object or situation may be had. . . . Expression . . . does something different from leading to an experience. It constitutes one." I believe that one of the fundamental aims of the integrated curriculum is to connect statement with expression, and that this connection is at the heart of the interdisciplinary approach to the teaching of history (statement) and literature (expression).

The interdisciplinary course examined in this paper provides an excellent example of the successful transformation of theory into practice. The course was established as the result of a perceived natural connection between history and literature; and the teaching strategies employed and the affective environment of the classroom emphasize the dual aims of the integrated curriculum: critical thinking and problem-solving. The favorable reception of this interdisciplinary course by the teachers and students alike also reflects the synergistic effect of combining the statement of. history with the expression of literature. As the English teacher said to the students one day, "In this class you get the accuracy of history combined with the drama of literature."


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