“As with any boundary crossing, expanding our ideas about ‘who belongs’ presents challenges to the existing culture.” (Stoll et al 2007)
My interdisciplinary connections map looks like a map of the London Underground. What I find most interesting is the relative sizes of the branches of this tree. The ‘regular’ classroom learning branches of literacy, numeracy and science are relatively small but the social media branch is huge in comparison. The Putaiao / science stem is also significantly enlarged representing my recent journey of teaching through a STEM based curriculum with a project based learning focus. I think this gives a valid visual representation of the way in which my personal learning and interactions with others has grown over the past few years.
I have used my growing understanding of the benefits and challenges of interdisciplinary learning to change the way I teach in the classroom.
I have moved to a more project based learning environment and I have tried to enable students to become empowered learners. I have done this through basing my teaching on science, technology and enviroschools as thematic focii.
Jones (2009 p 76) states that “interdisciplinary techniques allow students to see different perspectives, work in groups and make the synthesizing of disciplines the ultimate goal.”
My experience has been that students do begin to see different perspectives and they do work in groups. As a primary teacher, the synthesis of disciplines is not my ultimate goal for my students, my ultimate goal is to engage them fully in their learning using real world contexts that have meaning for them. To this end, cultural perspectives need to be incorporated into the learning. Magga (2004) describes quality education for indigenous people as being based on their own culture, knowledge, languages and learning and teaching traditions. “From this platform we will be able to reach for the best in the global garden of knowledge.” (cited in King and Schielmann, 2004:10) My learning from my MindLab studies has shown me that in Te Ao Māori, interdisciplinary studies were the norm. Geographic and genealogical locations were taught, as were important social and cultural icons. There was no separation between these areas as the more extensive a person’s knowledge and understanding of these things, the more mana they derived from this.
Teaching in a school with more than 50% Māori and Pasifika students, I need to move forward with this tradition making links with the NZ Curriculum. In this way, the voice of my community is heard while the learning experience of the students both links back to tradition and forward with 21st Century learning skills and habits.
Our world is interdisciplinary in nature and becomes more so each day. As education moves in this direction, we need to ensure we have systems in place to support culturally democratic learning and to develop effective assessment strategies to record success and progress for students.
Jones, C.(2009). Interdisciplinary approach - Advantages, disadvantages, and the future benefits of interdisciplinary studies. ESSAI, 7(26), 76-81. Retrieved from http://dc.cod.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1121&context=essai
Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997. Retrieved from http://www.albany.edu/cela/reports/mathisonlogic12004.pdf:
Stoll, L &, Seashore Louis, K. (Eds.).(2007). Professional Learning Communities: Divergence, Depth And Dilemmas. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill
Thaman, K. (2016, December 6th). Culture Matters in teaching and learning. (K. Thaman, Performer) Aronui Lecture Series, Wellington, New Zealand.