Decoding the Disciplines emerged from a faculty development program that I and Joan Middendorf  directed from 1998 to 2010.  This approach to increasing student learning began with the realization that the steps that instructors follow to solve problems in their disciplines have often become so automatic for them that they fail to explicit teach them to their students.

Decoding generally begins with the identification of a place in a course where a significant portion of students in a particular course have difficulty performing a crucial task.  The steps that must be mastered to accomplish this activity are then explicitly innumerate, most often through an interview process.  These steps are then explicitly modeled for students, they are given opportunities to practice these skills and to receive feedback, potential emotional resistance to the learning is dealt with, the success of the process is assessed, and the results are shared.

Since its inception, the Decoding model has been expanded and applied in a wide variety of contexts, first by the Indiana University History Learning Project, led by Joan, Arlene Díaz, and myself, then by scholars of teaching and learning in at least eleven countries.

Recent contributions to the Decoding literature include David Pace, The Decoding the Disciplines Paradigm (Indiana University Press, 2017), Joan Middendorf and Leah Shopkow, Overcoming Student Learning Bottlenecks: Decode the Critical Thinking of Your Discipline (Stylus, 2017), and Miller-Young, Janice, and Jennifer Boman, eds.Using the Decoding the Disciplines Framework for Learning Across Disciplines, New Directions for Teaching and Learning (Jossey-Bass, 2017). The original work on Decoding was captured in David Pace and Joan Middendorf, eds., Decoding the Disciplines: Helping Students Learn Disciplinary Ways of Thinking (New Directions in Teaching and Learning, Vol. 98 (Fall 2004)

More information about Decoding and a more complete bibliography on the subject may be found at