Ms Ellen Cornish and Dr Don W Jordan

Our classroom experience has shown us that the many benefits of moving away from rote learning to an integrated learning classroom, is that skills, values and understandings can best be taught and assessed within meaningful ‘connected’ contexts. Based on our understanding of students’ needs, interests, prior knowledge and experience, we planned a set of broad understandings to help frame our unit of work. These understandings – though specific to the topic – incorporated some of the    key concepts that students explore with increasing sophistication as they move through school.  The following is an example of what our classroom planning and teaching towards enhancing understanding in an integrated classroom looks like, sounds like, and feels like, together with a suggested unit of work on the human body, feel good feel great.

Integrated learning advantages teachers and students by:

·         Reflecting, more closely, the interdependence between all aspects of life in the real world

·         Challenging learners to use and develop their thinking as they work to make connections and see the ‘big picture’

·         Catering to the various learning styles and preferences held by students

·         Managing an increasing crowded curriculum

·         Meeting outcomes in context

·         Making more ‘sense’ to the school day – as activities have stronger links with each other

·         Providing students with a greater degree of control over learning

·         Encouraging staff to plan and work in teams

·         Structuring a meaningful context for the teaching and assessment of outcomes across key learning areas

·         Enabling students to transfer knowledge, skills and values across content and experiences

·         Skilling students to process and respond to experience in a range of ways

·         Linking purposes with activities more explicitly

·         Enriching understanding, enjoyment and reflection in teaching and learning.

The essence of this approach to planning is the relationship between those learning areas concerned with ‘the world around us’ (science, technology, health, and environmental and social education) and those areas through which we explore and come to understand that world (language, mathematics, art, drama, dance, music and aspects of technology.  Kath Murdoch (2003, P.1)

 

Creating an Integrated Classroom

 

An Integrated Classroom

Connects Prior Learning to New Learning

 

 

Fosters Reflective Practices

Makes Learning Meaningful

Recognises Individual Differences

Looks like

 

  • Teachers working / planning collaboratively.
  • Desks arranged in clusters of 4-6.
  • Activity centres with work space and resources.
  • Wall displays of student work and instructional material.
  • Comfortable reading space. (Cushions and books).

  • Smiling faces.

 

  • Tuning in activities using various graphic organisers e.g. what I know, what I would like to know etc.
  • Teacher assessment. (formative, summative).

 

  • Teacher and student created rubrics.
  • Students displaying their learning in a number of ways, e.g talking, writing, art, drama etc.

 

  • Relevant and up to date resources.

 

  • Adequate work spaces for students.
  • Curriculum relevant to student needs and interests.

 

  • Classroom program arranged to allow students to find space and resources. Allowing the teacher to give time and encouragement to students in order to demonstrate their learning across curriculum areas.
  • Learning program developed so that students can enter at their level and be extended and challenged.

Sounds like

 

  • Students discussing and helping each other.
  • The teacher interacting with individuals and groups.
  • Students confidently sharing their learning with the class through speaking, writing, drama, music, art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Students being able to discuss their understandings and to make connections.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Students confidently explaining, discussing their learning with peers, teacher and parents.

 

 

 

 

  • Teacher making learning objectives clear.
  • Opportunities for students to takes risk in sharing their learning.

 

 

 

 

  • The sound of discussion between students and between students and teacher.
  • Students sharing the learning with peers, parents and teacher.

 

Feels like

  • Warm and safe to share confidently.
  • To ask questions and give opinions.
  • Inviting and feeling part of the group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Warm and safe to share confidently.
  • To ask questions and give opinions.
  • Inviting and feeling part of the group.

 

 

 

  • Warm and safe to share confidently.
  • To ask questions and give opinions.
  • Inviting and feeling part of the group.

 

  • Students feeling confident to share their understandings with others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Supportive environment so students feel comfortable to give thoughts and opinions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Murdoch, K. (2003), Classroom Connections; Strategies for Classroom Learning. Australia: Publishing Solutions.

 

Glossary

Overarching Goals: Goals which overshadow the whole topic.

Tuning In: Finding out what the students already know about the topic, as well as what they would like to find out in order to stimulate their interest and enthusiasm for the topic.

Brainstorm: group discussion and sharing of ideas.

Guiding Questions: questions related to the topic which promote thought as well as refining the investigation to be undertaken.

Graphic Organiser: Charts which help visually organise information (there are many examples, including Y charts, T charts, fish bones, placemats, concept maps, flow charts etc. on the internet)

Rubrics: Teacher or student generated charts based on the topic being studied to assist with self-assessment.

Formative Assessment: Teacher assessment, as well as student self-assessment which can be demonstrated through drama, oral presentations, written material, information technology, art and craft etc.

Summative Assessment: System and school based testing.

Culmination: The final part of the topic where students demonstrate their understandings using a variety of methods including drama, information technology, oral presentations, written material, art and craft etc.