When looking at the map above, which shows my interdisciplinary connections as they relate to my roles of classroom teacher and learning leader, it is quite eye-opening to note the number of connections there are, and those are just the ones I thought of as I am sure there are many others.
As a school, we are working with Mark Treadwell (one of my identified interdisciplinary connections) to develop and implement a competencies based curriculum, where we start with Mark's work as a base, but mould and shape it to fit the needs of our particular school community. Due to the nature of it's design, there is a lot of potential for we as educators to situate these competencies within an interdisciplinary outline. Barton and Smith (2007) talk about the notion of children having the opportunity to learn something “worth knowing”. They discuss the idea of an interdisciplinary outline, one that “...recognizes that effective planning is...a well-crafted set of resources and activities that can adapt to the emerging needs and interests of students.” One of the advantages of the approach to curriculum that we are taking is our ability to take the teachable moment, or run with what interests the particular students in our class at the time.
As the competencies, and their sub-set of concepts, are cross-disciplinary in nature, this provides us with the scope to look for opportunities to present a concept within an interdisciplinary context. According to Mathison & Freeman (1997) “...an interdisciplinary approach always consciously combines two or more disciplines and keeps them distinct and in focus. It has clear objectives that include both critical-thinking skills and in-depth content, and is typically teacher directed but may welcome student input.”
In their presentation entitled “The Logic of Interdisciplinary Studies”, Mathison & Freeman (1997) discuss some of the concerns that need consideration when considering an approach such as this. They talk about the risk of it being little bits of lots of topics, without any real deep or unifying structure - and go on to discuss the importance of ensuring that important educational goals are met through the use of this form of curriculum design and delivery. This is worthy of consideration, especially when considered in relation to the competency based curriculum we are implementing. With each of the competencies being separated into between 15 - 19 interrelated concepts, and the expectation being that each concept should only need between 20 minutes and 2 hours to develop understanding, I often worry that there is a real risk of presenting a series of isolated pockets of ideas (that theoretically are integrative and cover big educational ideas). What this certainly highlights for me is the importance of ensuring their is still something tying them all together into a logical and cohesive whole.
A Potential Future Connection
Looking at the diagram, there are a number of potential connections that could be well worth exploring, one that I think could be particularly worthwhile, is that of the local high school. One real limitation I have found when it comes to really exploring things that are worth my learners knowing, is the availability of suitable resources to really deeply explore some aspects of the curriculum. A good example of what I am referring to would be the area of Science. At it's simplest level, this could mean me contacting a Science teacher/HOD at the school and getting their ideas and input into a lesson I am planning to present, or perhaps connecting with teachers at Albany Senior, where they are already exploring interdisciplinary teaching within their own context, and looking for suggestions on combining Science and Literacy, for example, in a meaningful way that will help promote deep learning.
On a more complex level, it could be taking my learners to one of the local high schools to explore a concept with more depth than I can provide at school, or alternatively, maybe it could take the form of students at one of those schools as part of their learning, preparing and presenting something to help my learners to develop their skills and knowledge, that builds the older students' knowledge at the same time.
In order for this to be truly successful, I think it would be very important to ensure that I am working collaboratively with the teachers and or their students, as at the end of the day, I am the one with the best knowledge of my students and their needs, so full collaboration would be the most important consideration.
Barton, K. C., & Smith, L. A. (2000). Themes or motifs? Aiming for coherence through interdisciplinary outlines. The Reading Teacher, 54(1), 54-63.1.
Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997.