Tuesday, 21 June 2016

MindLab: Applied Practice - Week 31 - Interdisciplinary Connections Map (Activity 7)

I've been thinking a lot about what 'interdisciplinary' actually means and after reading a few articles, watching a couple videos... I kind of get what it means now.

I love in this Ted Talk that David Wiley brings up Creative Commons. It was the main thing that helped me to understand the need for more interdisciplinary learning and teaching approaches. The need to Mix, Reuse, Share. 

At first I thought it was just cross-curricular learning, planning with other teachers collaboratively to create a programme that was more integrated.

It's more than that...

It's not just integrated learning either.

It's the kind of learning where the student is at the focus, completely inquiry based where students are essentially asking questions to develop a rich source of learning where it is not only relevant but real life learning too. It's the kind of learning where those boundaries of learning areas and specialist subjects are crossed. Where students are using their knowledge across the differing learning areas to create a meaningful learning experience.

This sounds incredibly beautiful. I want to learn how to do this. I arrogantly feel that I do some of this already... but know that everything I do can be done significantly better. Also, that kind of learning is organic. It comes from real teachable moments. It comes from students asking questions related to their own learning.

In secondary school and particularly employed as an English teacher, many of the questions my students ask are focussed on the assessment at hand, rather than their learning - eg "What do I need to do to get a Merit?" or "I don't feel that this assessment will allow me to get an Excellence so there's no point doing it as I want to get endorsed with Excellence"....

Or the "I can't be bothered doing any more with it Miss, I just want an Achieved."

This credit farming business seriously ruins my love for teaching and learning. Students know the system. They know how to work the system. Jeez, my year were the second group through NCEA and we knew how to work the system too.

The assessments if done well, can be cross-curricular, they can be interdisciplinary - but more often than not they aren't. This is a major problem for me. I would love to see real world learning happening for every student in my class. At the moment - over all five classes - I'd have to say it's only happening in my social studies class, some in Y10 English and maybe three or four students across Y11 and the Y12 classes.

The reason being is that 1) My continuous moan that there is just not enough time and 2) real-world learning and teachable moments happen every so often because we're so driven by the assessment and the marking and moderation and uploading to KAMAR that we forget or don't pay as much attention to the teaching moments and opportunities throughout the assessment.

Yesterday I missed two opportunities to discuss real-world learning from questions from my students. I don't know why I didn't just stop what we were doing and discuss it. It's real world learning and I love those types of discussions which allow my students to put their hearts on the line and declare their passion and thoughts whichever way it turns. It was in Social Studies too.. a class where I want them to be more aware of what is happening in the world today and they asked me a question about Moko.... and I responded about how awful and how sad it was... and then kept thinking just to stay on task and carry on with what we were doing.

The point I guess I'm making is that those moments can be rare and if they're not seized and taken advantage of, then we miss truly wonderful moments where students take hold of their own learning and participate and contribute in a way that allows all students the chance to discover and share their own thoughts.

Two areas of focus for future goals in teaching and learning:

Creating more relevant ways to assess student learning
As I discussed briefly above, the need to assess students is part of my job, however there has to be a way to ensure that assessments are more relevant and making the most of student's engagement and interest into their learning. At present our assessments in English have the potential to be more interdisciplinary. The main issue is the assumed expectation of what is accepted as assessment quality. I have so many ideas. So many ideas around creating more relevant ways to assess. The issue remains around the expectation of my colleagues in my department as to what constitutes work that could be assessed. In the past few months there has finally been a decision agreed by all members of the department that work done in other learning areas can be used towards the Level Two Writing Portfolio as long as it is worked up to a Level Two English standard for writing. This is increasingly exciting. I'm no longer nervous about telling students it's okay to do this.

I'd also like to investigate alternatives for the academic purposes assessment - at present it is relevant for many students as it focuses on two hunting articles around safety while hunting. A major issue in our area. As a result of this, it could be seen as being relevant. In the past I've had a range of different students - some of which it was relevant and relateable - and others who it didn't connect with at all. This year I had even more students who didn't connect with it. I think it is super important to have relevant assessment opportunities... and to ensure there is equitable access in terms of engagement for all students.... I just wonder where there are possible alternatives to the hunting one... even though I personally connect with it easily as a kid who grew up hunting... but I digress...

Making the most of teachable moments to ensure more relevant and real-world learning
With whatever we do in class - working towards the goal of having more relevant ways of assessing - there is a need to be consistently planning programmes of learning that take into account student's interests, inquiries and more importantly focused questions around the learning. By doing this, there may be even more teachable moments available which may create more relevant and real-world learning opportunities.

There are teachable moments that get missed out on due to the need to complete the coursework. I hate that I did this the other day. It makes me incredibly sad that I didn't create that environment to discuss those issues. If students were given more opportunities to identify areas that they were interested in there would be a higher chance of more engagement and more focused learning for all involved.

I'm not sure this is really a focus for interdisciplinary teaching and learning... or whether it's just good teaching and learning... I just think that these two issues are goal-worthy for now for me as they're issues that I'm always thinking about and trying to be better with. It all comes down to making the learning more effective and worthy of the student's time. I suppose too it means a lot as a teacher to ensure more relevant modes of teaching too as with everything I've learnt in the MindLab ... I need to make sure that my students are at the centre so that they can redefine their learning and what it means to be a learner in the 21st century.

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