As a Social Studies and Geography teacher there are a number of subject areas within and outside a Social Science silo that my subjects are able to align with or link to. The diagram above attempts to visualise this.
In his 2010 book Cross-Curricular Teaching and Learning in Secondary Education, Jonathan Savage states
“the most common obstacle to the successful introduction of cross-curricular approaches to curriculum planning was the pressure on school timetables” Savage, J. (2010). Cross-curricular teaching and learning in secondary education. Routledge.
This has certainly been my experience over the years. Attempts at cross curricular or interdisciplinary studies have tended to be either non starters of have foundered after a year as other things take precedence in timetabling. The only method I have come across that works is the invention of new subject areas that are themselves a mix of more than one traditional subject. This is great but perpetuates the problem. Whilst the new subject itself might mix two or three traditional subject areas in it, it has no ability to act in a cross curricular manner with other subject areas due to the timetable.
A recent example of this is the creation of a new ILE at my current school
We have converted traditional classroom spaces and a sizeable office into a series of more flexible spaces. See the map below.
An interdisciplinary option was tabled to allow Economic, Accounting and Business Studies — within the same NCEA year group — to occupy the various spaces at the same time with two teachers working together to offer the three subjects in a flexible manner. This would allow aspects of the three subjects that crossed over to be taught collaboratively and also allow students to pick their own pathway through the various internals and externals allowing personalisation of their learning journey. As assistant head of Social Sciences part of my job was to put this to the relevant people as a possible use of the new area. Sadly, I was told the timetable simply did not have the necessary flexibilities to allow this to happen. Likewise we could not really dictate the placement of any senior school subject at the same time as others as it locked up timetabling lines that had knock on ramifications elsewhere in the school. There is a possibility that two or more Junior Social Studies classes might align but only if the placement of senior subject allowed this later on.
While this looks like a massive missed opportunity. Even my rudimentary knowledge of timetabling tells me that the necessary pragmatism of such a horribly complex jigsaw puzzle, will inevitably trump any pedagogical idealism that might cause students to miss out on option choices or worse cause subjects to not run elsewhere in the school.
For me therefore currently my cross curricular links are very loose and informal. Where possible I make interdisciplinary links are made obvious to my students. Discussing links between understanding the Amazon Rain-forest in Level 2 Geography I will remind students that they studied the water cycle in junior science. When looking at NZ industries in year 10 Social Studies we point out that these topics can be studied further in senior Economics.
In the future I would like to see a lot more interdisciplinary work occur between Geography and Science in the senior school. I have discussed this at length with the Head of Science and we have a series of possible areas that would link nicely between the subjects
- Plate Tectonics
- Local, Regional and Global Natural Processes
- The Demographic Transition Model
Our key issues remain the timetabling of our subjects. In essence it is hit and miss as to whether we share any similar students and this is dependent on how the timetable lines are set up as well as student subject choices. This is before we get to ideas of the location of teaching and learning or the sharing of resources etc.
One option for us going forward is the removal of a subject centred curriculum altogether. A student centred flexible curriculum that allows the choice of topics or standards rather than subjects would allow some of this to happen but would also create other timetabling headaches. But…
“Postsecondary educators want students ready for an integrated marketplace…. …It seems that, as educators, we recognize the globalization of society and the overlapping nature of most occupations, and we want our students to have diverse, interdisciplinary experiences—thus it seems prudent to adopt a similar mindset for our own scholarly endeavors. We should set an example for our students, valuing efforts to “reach across the aisle” and emphasizing interdisciplinary opportunities.” Mulligan, L. M., & Kuban, A. J. . (2015). A Conceptual Model for Interdisciplinary Collaboration. Retrieved from http://acrlog.org/2015/05/14/a-conceptual-model-for-interdisciplinary-collaboration
Mulligan, L. M., & Kuban, A. J. . (2015). A Conceptual Model for Interdisciplinary Collaboration. Retrieved from http://acrlog.org/2015/05/14/a-conceptual-model-for-interdisciplinary-collaboration
Savage, J. (2010). Cross-curricular teaching and learning in secondary education. Routledge.