How refreshing would it be for students to come to school and be immersed in a project that truly spanned the curriculum that was engaging and applied their learning to something they could relate to (not just the teachers). That is just what interdisciplinary project-based learning does. So, how do we get past the turf wars of little academic kingdoms and move to a collaborative integrated system? Have a plan, start small, and market the program. Here is a short list of some of the advantages of moving to an interdisciplinary approach to share with your co-workers:
Sharing the burden! Working with your colleagues to design lessons that integrate academics spreads the burden. No longer are you teaching in isolation. There is a sense of synergy with everyone working towards a common goal.
Face it, some students just don’t get ______ (fill in the blank with whatever subject you want), for some reason it just doesn’t click. By using interdisciplinary projects, they can build on their strengths in the other academic areas to bolster them up in that weaker area.
Relevant and engaging, two things that help keep students coming to school and learning. Imagine the reduction of attendance and behavior issues if students were excited about what they were working on. Interdisciplinary projects provide continuity that keep the students engaged throughout the day, the learning isn’t in unrelated chunks. The students actually experience how the different subjects are intertwined in everyday life.
Integrated projects are a great way to bring rigor to your lessons, while meeting standards – especially with the Common Core roll out!
There are always going to be challenges facing teachers, schools, and administrators regardless of whether or not you use a more thematic approach to education. You will encounter those who want to perpetuate academic islands, who want to just keep teaching how they have always taught (not taking into account effectiveness), and those who just don’t or won’t see the value in project-based learning. Let’s face it time is a precious commodity that you can never get enough of and the front-end planning does take a lot of time and effort. However, these obstacles are not insurmountable!
So how, might you ask, do you go about making interdisciplinary project-based learning a reality in your school? First thing is find a group of teachers who are willing and enthusiastic and start small. There is a lot of power in seeing success and success is a great motivator for those fence riders who aren’t real sure about the process. Choose a project that is going to be of high-interest to the students. Next, provide this team of teachers with the planning time needed to create the project. Once entrenched in the project the team will need additional time in the schedule for common planning to collaborate, while they continue to monitor and adjust – making those tweaks as the project unfolds. Again, the success of the first project will provide the momentum to get more teachers involved and students engaged.
Well, what are you waiting for? Find some willing co-workers and start a grassroots movement and get started, one project at a time!