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Academic Discipline

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An academic discipline is a branch of learning or scholarly investigation that provides a structure for the students’ program of study, especially in the baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate levels. Recognized scholars in the field train students in the thinking and behaviors that are characteristic of the academic discipline. There is a language idiosyncratic to each academic discipline which socializes its members, trains them in teaching the discipline, researches its strategies and educational theories, and administers its programs and profession. Academic disciplines have a community of scholars with a tradition of inquiry into a particular topic of study. There is a method of research into that topic that outlines data collection and interpretation. New knowledge is added only by strict procedure.

Academic disciplines are classified in many ways. Codification is one way in which the discipline’s body of knowledge is unified into theories. Another way is paradigm development in which there is agreement on the defining, ordering, and investigation of knowledge. Physics is an example of this classification.

Academic Discipline and Education

Academic Discipline and Education

Unlike technical or vocational knowledge and teaching, academic disciplines offer a liberal or classical education based on exact and predictable knowledge which affects the way the individual perceives the world around him/her. It makes for a more educated person who interacts is a more disciplined manner in that field.


Academic discipline is a term used in secondary academia to denote a scholarly branch of instruction or curriculum. An academic discipline is a framework for outlining an area of study that includes similar studies and characteristics of a field of interest at the college level. Some examples of academic disciplines are:

  • Humanities

  • Social Studies

  • Natural Sciences

  • The arts

    These are broad categorizations that are more in line with the traditional definition of what constitutes an academic discipline, as was characteristic of early academia around the time of the Renaissance. Today, college and universities have many categories and subcategories of academic disciplines and the definition has become blurred as to which category a field of study fits into. In many cases, one academic discipline fits into the curriculum of many other academic disciplines.

Colleagues and Academic Discipline

Besides consistent structure and modeling positive outcomes for the field of study, three major factors of cooperation among colleagues in an academic discipline are: mutual support, shared standards and expectations, and positive educational relationships. The one thing they all have in common is the connectedness of the relationship between academia and their field of study. Working as partners who communicate effectively and share the same expectations for the discipline in the classroom can offer the right combination of academic integration to bring about success. As always, professors must work as a team, but the academic discipline relationship goes beyond that. In an effective department, follow-up meetings and conferences are common. When a student sees that both his professors and the institution are pulling in the same direction, he or she gains confidence and becomes more reliant on the educational process.

Curriculum developed for a specific academic discipline is often viewed as a necessary process that must be accomplished by the school and its educators in order to provide a foundation for developing education. While it is indeed true that curriculum serves this specific purpose, it appears as if the challenges associated with developing curriculum around a cohesive view of an academic discipline have removed many of the inherent benefits that can be accomplished through this process. Rather the viewing curriculum development as an integrative process that can improve education, curriculum has, in many cases, developed into a mechanistic procedure that provides more headaches than it does benefits for enhancing the discipline.

Although defining any academic discipline and outlining its development is clearly a substantial challenge, researchers argue that, “The curriculum is a sophisticated blend of educational strategies, course content, learning outcomes, educational experiences, assessment the educational environment and the individual students' learning style, personal timetable and program of work”. As such, the curriculum is a dynamic tool that can and should be used to both set standards and bolster education in a manner that is both interesting and meaningful for outlining any academic discipline. To facilitate the development of a cohesive definition of an academic discipline, many educators recommend the use of curriculum mapping. Curriculum mapping would define the elements that are important in achieving the academic goals of the discipline.