Friday, June 17, 2016

Curriculum integration

This post for the Mind Lab course begins with a discussion of different integrative approaches for curriculum and how my understanding of this has developed over my years of teaching.

I have always fully believed in integrating the curriculum as much as possible, but over my years teaching the idea of what this means has developed. This development was largely due to many years teaching in a PYP (Primary Years Programme of International Baccalaureate) school. There I was introduced to the term transdisciplinary and this challenged my concept of integrated curriculum.

Teachers perceive integration of curriculum in a variety of ways and using a range of terms. Broadly, these terms fit onto a continuum with a single disciplinary approach at one end to a transdisciplinary approach, situated beyond single curriculum areas at the other end. A transdisciplinary approach transcends traditional curriculum boundaries and draws together knowledge, skills and understandings from a range of curriculum areas in meaningful ways.

Achieving this of course is a lot easier said than done. Key strategies that can be used to support this approach include:
  • exploring overarching themes and concepts and using these to drive the curriculum rather than siloed disciplines
  • backwards planning design
  • curriculum tracking - rather than having a skills checklist
  • focus on the front-end of the curriculum
  • problem-based or project-based curriculum
  • student-led learning
Things to avoid in the drive to achieving a transdisciplinary approach include:
  • a rigid timetable
  • skills teaching for 'just-in-case' rather than 'just-in-time'
I have included below a very quick mind map of how robotics can be used in an transdisciplinary approach where the focus is on robotics or automation and artificial intelligence. This is in no way an exhaustive or ideal list but just the beginning of thinking - and ideally, these transdisciplinary connections would be made by students, engaged in exploring real world issues in authentic contexts.

And professionals I connect with outside education in my role as a robotics educator.


  1. Well done for taking a particular context to show the inter or transdisciplinary approach. Wish I'd thought of that! I also wish I'd mentioned the two points you highlight: rigid timetables and out of context, "just in case" teaching.

    A few years ago in my part-time role as a blended elearning facilitator, I had to keep a straight face when a teacher told me that she believed that handwriting was important to teach "just in case" the internet was to die.

    I somehow think that if that was to happen, handwriting would be the least of our worries.

  2. Ouch - I sort of laugh and cringe at the handwriting comment!!

  3. I agree with Anne-Marie, well done for choosing a particular context to illustrate the disciplinary approach. Having looked at your blog first, I have been able to modify mine to give a context so thank you for that. I'm unsure how high schools are addressing this issue but I feel that primary schools are achieving this through their inquiry based approached to learning, it is something we have recently introduced at our school and it appears to be working.

  4. Great post Jill. I like how specific you have been with this post...I could have done something similar though it would have been with Sport and thus not the correct context. Another point is I agree with your "rigid timetable" comment - not just as a class / team but also for the individual student, as each will complete in their own time. Surely part of the interdisciplinary approach is allowing students the TIME to achieve, especially if they are engaged and being creative.

    1. Thanks. I have been observing a year 7 & 8 teacher in another school who shares the timetable each week via Google classroom and the children can modify it as they wish as long as they get the necessary requirements done by the end of the week. Seems to be working well ..... and the more we head down a transdisciplinary path the less we need a timetable split into different subject areas. Cheers,