2. Instruction – The teacher uses research-based instructional practices to meet the needs of all students.
2.2 Engaging Students in Learning
Most activities and assignments are appropriate to students, and almost all students are cognitively engaged in exploring content.
When engaging students in the elementary classroom, it is essential that they enjoy learning but also understand why learning is important. Curriculum should be designed to be age-appropriate, meeting content standards to facilitate that students are prepared for their future education and life outside of the public school. In addition, curriculum should utilize approaches that are more relevant to situations that arise in the real world, outside of the public school. Utilizing an integrated curriculum can enable students to develop these skills. Curriculum can be structured around a common theme or concept, teaching can also address a variety of subject areas all at once, or lessons can be driven by student interest and by situations arising in their own community. The goal is not only to meet a set of ever-evolving standards, but to also to engage students in an education that is memorable and meaningful.
There are various approaches for integrating curriculum. Drake and Burns (2004) present three approaches, the multidisciplinary approach, the interdisciplinary approach, and the transdisciplinary approach. The multidisciplinary approach organizes teaching and curriculum around a central theme. Teaching strategies such as fusing skills into school curriculum, service-learning opportunities, integration of different subject areas or “parallel disciplines”, and “theme-based units” are all examples of how this model can be approached (Drake & Burns, 2004, p. 9-12).
With the interdisciplinary approach, the teacher structures curriculum around theme and concepts utilizing information across different subject areas (Drake & Burns, 2004). Some examples of this method are utilizing the arts to teach about math and science concepts, utilizing technology with history, science, and mathematics and so on.
The transdisciplinary approach is broadened further where the teacher designs curriculum based on student feedback and questioning (Drake & Burns, 2004). This method provides a hook for student interest as subject areas are taught through real-world contexts and can be driven by the students’ questioning. Teachers tend to utilize project-based learning activities such as community projects.
These three integration approaches connect with each other by offering diverse strategies to initiate the curriculum design process. Each method provides students with diverse learning activities by overlapping a variety of subject areas, focusing on a common theme or real-world scenario, alleviating the classroom of subject-to-subject fact-based learning. As noted by Drake & Burns (2004), many schools are experiencing difficulties with meeting learning standards. Rather than take the initiative to evolve a system that is not helping them meet those standards, many teachers are struggling with a curriculum that could be more meaningful and memorable to students. Drake & Burns (2004) state that, “In an era of accountability, no one approach seems preferable” but that any approach can be utilized at any grade level (p. 16). Furthermore, evidence presented by Drake & Burns confirms that these methods work as the integration of curriculum provides many more opportunities to make learning meaningful.
Building on previous learning, I intend to integrate curriculum in my future classroom by prioritizing planning based on prioritized learning standards, utilizing a backwards design approach to this design process. Beginning with the content standard, I intend to utilize these approaches as well as others to fit to the standard to enhance student learning, allowing passion and real-world concepts to drive student-learning experiences. I appreciate the benefits of all three approaches and the ability to overlap subject areas in the elementary classroom, understanding that in the real world, outside of public education, students will encounter problem-solving scenarios that embrace mathematics, science, history, art, music, theatre, geography, fitness, and so on. Students can be taught to meet standards but even better, they can learn beyond this method and develop cognitive devices to understand the world around them.
Drake, S. M. & Burns, R. C. (2004). Meeting standards through integrated curriculum. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.