Art by Hannah Christine Allan Dear
The Correspondence School initiated an integrated teaching pilot programme for years 7 to 10 at the beginning of this year. I was privileged to have participated in some of the initial draftings at the very early stages. The opportunity to work with the teachers on the integrated teaching team was a special bonus. The teachers were from a range of subject areas from diverse backgrounds in early primary through to secondary.
Teachers are delightful people
Our discussions were both stimulating and illuminating. They took us in many directions. A particular consideration that caught my interest was the dialogue we had on what was meant by integrated learning from the point of view of the student. We had our own ideas on this. Eventually we agreed upon a worthwhile summary.
Barriers and links
During these discussions, however, two anomalies emerged. The first involved the perceived barriers between the traditional subject areas. The second was to do with the so-called links that had to be made between these subject areas to establish a unified and consistent approach to teaching any particular key competency within the curriculum.
There was some emphasis placed on the need to cross the so-called barriers between subjects so that knowledge and skills acquired by the student were broadened to embrace the curriculum in a seamless and integrated fashion. Simultaneously the links between the subject areas had to be identified so that they could be made clear. It was thought that by stressing the links to the students the barriers would be dispelled.
From the student’s perspective, however, this seemed irregular, almost cart-before-the-horse. After all, students who had been taught in a genuinely integrated learning environment should not be aware of the barriers, even if their teachers could identify them; the barriers were only in the minds of the teachers. The whole point of using an integrated approach is to dispel the barriers from the learning. So why emphasise them?
Neither was there a need in the teaching to stress the links between the traditional subject areas. Teacher analysis of the learning areas would permit links to be recognised. But these would only be useful to the teacher when considering how to design a programme charting the learning pathways so that passage between subject areas was smooth.
Students who had been taught in a genuinely integrated learning environment would have no need to have the links identified as these would be implicit in their understanding of what they’d learnt.
For them, there would be no barriers between subject learning areas.