Week 31 Crossing boundaries and creating connections

I have made two maps below. The first shows a particular block of learning that I will be teaching in called Connected Learning. This will run for 500 minutes per week for year 9 learners and be a combination of five disciplines. The logic behind this model is justified by using Stember’s (1991) arguments (cited in Freeman & Mathison, 1997) that integrated approaches use each discipline to enrich ideas or methods from other fields, the connections between the disciplines are more reflective of real world knowledge and a pedagogical approach that seeks to reduce the fragmentation of subjects into silos.

interdisciplinary-learning-1

I think with the global issues that are occurring and with rapid technological change we tend to work in multi-disciplinary modes all the time and have done so for many years. If we keep teaching learners in silos we will not provide opportunities for them that will allow them to develop the critical skills they need now and for the future. There seems to be a substantial body of research that says interdisciplinary approaches have positive educational outcomes that support learners to increase understanding in general concepts, have a better understanding of global competencies, better decision making and critical thinking, transfer skills, increased motivation and a better attitude to learning. The article also summarised several benefits for teachers in terms of curriculum flexibility, less fragmentation, collegiality ad support between teachers, human brain and learning process and better relationships with learners. I see huge benefits in co-teaching, and collaborative planning as we utilise each other’s strengths to enhance learner outcomes. However, I also recognise that there will be some frustrations in coming to common agreement and a time factor that will need to be accounted for as part of the school day. There will need to be time spent building trust in teams and an agreed set of principles or mates agreements for how the team should operate. This should not be taken for granted.

interdisciplinary-learning-2

The Thomas McDonagh Group (2011) say that cross pollination occurs in interdisciplinary ways because previous unconnected connections are made. But warn us that we need a shared language to communicate across and between our disciplines. I believe we can learn new ways of pedagogy that will engage learners. One such interdisciplinary course I would like to be involved in would be around the Physical education, media and food technology areas.(diagarm above) Our learners have indicated they love sport and have huge involvement so I see that this provides a great context for learning. A class such as Bio-fit could combine the science of sport with nutrition whilst critiquing through a media lens how athletes are used to promote foods or body image and many other areas of interest that learners identify. Using the discipline expertise of each area enhances the teachers and learners knowledge to a deeper level.

It is interesting that Drake, 1991, Fullan, 1991 & Palmer 1995 (cited in Freeman & Mathison, 1997) say that teachers find it hard to give up strategies, structures and the content that they are most familiar with and that this can cause conflict. I find that because I have taught a wide array of subjects over the years rather than becoming an expert in one particular discipline I am less focussed on content and more on learners. However, I fully acknowledge that we need depth not a wish washy attempt to bring superficial learnings across disciplines. Ensuring rigor is paramount and that relevant pathways that learners want to purse in their future are provided for is essential.

The qualities and attitudes of people in the interdisciplinary team is important. There needs to be a culture in the team that is open, equitable loads and commitment, trust and openness to vulnerability. (ACRLog, 2015) Providing planning time in a curriculum structure is also important as is coming to an agreed set of goals with mutual accountability. The next few weeks will be planning together through a trial and error approach and working out what works and for whom-interesting times ahead!

ACRLog. (2015). A Conceptual Model for Interdisciplinary Collaboration. Retrieved from http://acrlog.org/2015/05/14/a-conceptual-model-for-interdisciplinary-collaboration.

Mathison, S. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997. Retrieved from http://www.albany.edu/cela/reports/mathisonlogic12004.pdf

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