The world is interdisciplinary. School should be, too. | Tim Quinn | 4 Min Read

March 17, 2023

This article was originally posted on the Miss Porter’s School website.

Have you ever read a novel in which the historical context was of no importance? Do you ever do math that isn’t connected to something you are trying to find out? When you want to truly understand something, do you look at it solely from one perspective? Is there any significant problem in the world that can be solved by approaching it only through the lens of one academic discipline? I am guessing the answer to these questions is almost always “no.”  

Why, then, are schools structured around single-discipline academic departments? Probably because that is the way it has always been. Well, it is time for things to change. If we want students to thrive in adulthood and have the skills they need to tackle complex problems, then we must organize their education in a way that helps them approach learning differently.

One of the easiest ways to do this is by focusing classes not on what would typically be considered “school” subjects — biology, algebra, literature, history — but instead on a problem. There are multitudes to choose from: topics as broad as climate…

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Tim Quinn

Tim Quinn is the Chief Academic Officer and Dean of Faculty at Miss Porter's School in Farmington, CT, where he also teaches English and philosophy, coaches lacrosse, and serves as an advisor. Quinn, an independent school graduate attended Westminster School (CT) before going on to earn his B.A. from Amherst College and Ed.M from Harvard University. Quinn has taught at a range of independent schools in the U.S. and abroad, including Avon Old Farms (CT), Seoul International School (Korea), and Westminster School (CT). Before coming to Miss Porter's he served as the Assistant Head of Upper School at the University School of Milwaukee (WI) and as the Head of Upper School at the Tatnall School (DE). Quinn is the author of the 2013 book On Grades and Grading: Supporting Student Learning through a more Transparent and Purposeful Use of Grades, and has published articles in a number of prominent educational journals, such as Kappan Magazine, Independent School Magazine, and The English Journal. This coming summer, Quinn will begin his Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania.