Archive for the ‘Leadership & Policy’ Category

Cross-Curricular Multi-disciplinary Learning: Moving from Independent Islands to a Nation State

Moving from Independent Islands to a Nation State

Written by Coby Enteen

The value of creating in-depth, meaningful learning experiences for students through a cross-curricular or multidisciplinary teaching approaches have long been justified; however the feasibility of teaching this way, is somewhat questionable.  This is due to a large degree to the existing structure of the school, primarily at the secondary level where faculty is divided into isolated subject areas or departments, each working as an independent “island” in a sea of small land masses.  The goal of the approach presented is to unify these islands into a single land-mass or nation state, which shares common knowledge and teaching practices.

Creating multi-disciplinary instructional teams can provide a basic solution to developing collaborative learning projects which incorporate cross-curricular teaching.  This teacher task-force will typically collaborate on developing and implementing a specific project or small number of teaching units which is effective in showcasing the multi-disciplinary teaching approach, but falls short of a long-term solution.  This team provides only a superficial “band-aid” solution to the problem. The existing structure of the secondary school does not support this kind of structure, no does it allot time for this type of collaboration.  So, you ask: how do we create a secondary school environment which works successfully implements a cross-curricular learning approach?  There is no definitive answer other than either rebuilding a school from the ground-up or the need for re-examining the existing school structure and carving out new practices, which support deeper multidisciplinary connections in the classroom.  The key lies in collaborating with school stakeholders and revisiting existing instructional practices.

1.  School Leadership – The school principal and lead support staff provide the overall “tone” and pave the way for the pedagogic discourse in the teachers lounge.  To this end, the leadership must embrace the cross-curricular approach and echo its principles throughout all of the traditional channels: during teacher meetings, as a topic for professional-development, in the organization of teacher task-teams, and during every available opportunity.

2.  Creating a Cross-Curricular Organizational Structure –  The key elements of any effective organization can be found in its leadership, structure and mode of operation.  Schools need to select an individual with a strong background and understanding of multiple disciplines and subject-areas to head the program.  Although typically labeled as a curriculum-Specialist, Media Specialist, or Librarian in many schools, this individual must be able to maintain a “birds-eye” view of the school and its instructional needs, while working collaboratively with subject-area leaders (department heads) to develop a collective curriculum map.

3.  Instructional Weaving – The transition from a single-subject teaching practice to a multidisciplinary one will require the finding of “common-threads” which enable the teaching and reinforcing the curriculum standards of one subject-area through another.  This is the process of Instructional Weaving and it is accomplished through defining thematic topics that are both relevant to the students lives and incorporate instructional principles to be taught.  The school curriculum map will provide a basis for determining the intersections between the subjects taught throughout the year and provide a framework for teacher-teams to weave the curriculum together.

4.  Cross-Curricular Bonding – The final step involves putting the plans into motion by teaching the thematic lesson units involving the different subjects with other other subjects in mind.  Teachers will need to gradually shift from a single area focus to one that involves being part of a whole.  Time must be allotted for teachers of other disciplines to talk with one-another on a regular basis.  This can be accomplished through scheduling short 10-15 minute meetings to discuss the progress and help one another tweak the teaching practices.  The program leader (described in step 2) must receive regular progress reports as to guide the process at a school level.

Cross-curricular teaching is often viewed as an ideal mode of instruction offering for in-depth and meaningful learning.  The existing secondary school structure was built according to a uni-disciplinary model emphasizing the isolated teaching of subjects leaving little room for cross-curricular collaboration.  Therefore, schools must adopt a new set of organizational and curricular principles in order to effectively introduce a multidisciplinary teaching and learning process.

Here are some additional articles on Cross-Curricular Learning:

Deeper Learning: Why Cross-Curricular Teaching is Essential | Edutopia

Finding Inspiration Down the Hall and Beyond the Walls

 

Are We headed Towards Different School Structures in the Future?

Educators are constantly referencing the importance of instilling 21st century skills and preparing students for the future workplace, meanwhile our schools look like they did over 100 years ago.  Are we missing the point?  Why can’t classrooms be adapted to look more like a workplace with modern technology and collaborative work spaces?  These and many other questions are driving a change in the way that we look at the physical side of education.  Changing the way our schools and classrooms look might contribute a great deal to the way that we teach and learn, and to the profession as a whole.  That being said, district and school decision makers can look at modern teaching practices as a basis for  planning and upgrading existing schools.  Just as the instructional practices change from one class to another, so should the physical nature of the classroom.  Teaching is modular and the teaching and learning surroundings should be as well.

 

Read more here:

Could the School of the Future be Modular?

Creating the 21st Century Learning Experience — Asia Futures Magazine Online

Working to better prepare its nation’s students to thrive in a fast-changing and highly-connected world, the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) is promoting the development of self-directed and collaborative learning skills in its third Master Plan for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in Education. As an MOE-designated “Future School in Singapore” and a Mentor School in theMicrosoft Innovative Schools Program, Nan Chiau Primary School (NCPS) is playing a vital role in pushing the frontier of technology to prepare its students for the future.

Creating the 21st Century Learning Experience — Asia Futures Magazine Online.

Teachers make money selling materials online – Yahoo! News

SEATTLE (AP) — Kristine Nannini spent her summer creating wall charts and student data sheets for her fifth grade class — and making $24,000 online by selling those same materials to other teachers.

Teachers like Nannini are making extra money providing materials to their cash-strapped and time-limited colleagues on curriculum sharing sites like teacherspayteachers.com, providing an alternative to more traditional — and generally more expensive — school supply stores. Many districts, teachers and parents say these sites are saving teachers time and money, and giving educators a quick way to make extra income.

via Teachers make money selling materials online – Yahoo! News.

Strong School Leaders Key to Solving Digital Age Education Challenges – Transforming Learning – Education Week

School leaders recognize this better than anyone. As they face escalating demands for accountability, the rise in mobile-learning technologies, shrinking resources, implementation of Common Core Standards, the balancing of instruction and assessment — the list is seemingly endless — leaders are grappling with identifying pragmatic solutions to these digital age dilemmas.

Strong School Leaders Key to Solving Digital Age Education Challenges – Transforming Learning – Education Week.

Using Student Achievement Data to Support Instructional Decision Making: What Works Clearinghouse

This guide offers five recommendations to help educators effectively use data to monitor students’ academic progress and evaluate instructional practices. The guide recommends that schools set a clear vision for schoolwide data use, develop a data-driven culture, and make data part of an ongoing cycle of instructional improvement. The guide also recommends teaching students how to use their own data to set learning goals.

 

Using Student Achievement Data to Support Instructional Decision Making: What Works Clearinghouse.

Are Schools Prepared to Let Students BYOD?| The Committed Sardine

By Peter DeWitt on August 26, 2012 2:43 PM
http://blogs.edweek.org

“Districts wading into the “bring-your-own-technology,” or BYOT, waters are wrangling with which issues should be tackled through districtwide policy, and which should fall under school-level procedural codes. In the process, they’re trying to leave room to solve unanswered legal questions about Internet security and privacy.” Quillen (Education Week)

As our students get older, they become more responsible…we hope. A laptop or tablet has replaced the notebook and pen over the past few years since our present technological explosion. Many students can’t wait until the age that their teachers allow them to bring in their own devices. Unfortunately, no matter the level, not all students are encouraged to bring technology into the classroom. And those that are encouraged to do so, may not be doing it for the right reasons.

Are Schools Prepared to Let Students BYOD?| The Committed Sardine.