The Value of Integrated Curriculum

Introduction The integrated curriculum is a great gift to experienced teachers. It’s like getting a new pair of lenses that make teaching a lot more exciting and help us look forward into the next century. It is helping students take control of their own learning. I’m learning more in this course, and I’m doing better than I used to do when social studies and English were taught separately. This teacher and student express an increasingly widespread enthusiasm for curriculum integration. While not necessarily a new way of looking at teaching, curriculum integration has received a great deal of attention in educational settings.

Based both in research and teachers’ own anecdotal records of success, educational journals are reporting many examples of teachers who link subject areas and provide meaningful learning experiences that develop skills and knowledge, while leading to an understanding of conceptual relationships. Definitions Integrated curriculum, interdisciplinary teaching, thematic teaching, synergistic teaching…. When attempting to define integrated curriculum, it is also necessary to look at related terms. Several definitions are offered here.

As this paper is narrowed to K-12 integrated curriculum, definitions from vocational and higher education are ot included, although there is a growing interest in both of those areas in the interdisciplinary, integrated curriculum. The reader interested in specifics about interdisciplinary work in those fields is invited to consult the General References at the end of this report. A basic definition is offered by Humphreys (Humphreys, Post, and Ellis 1981) when he states, “An integrated study is one in which children broadly explore knowledge in various subjects related to certain aspects of their environment” (p. 1). He sees links among the humanities, communication arts, natural sciences, mathematics, social tudies, music, and art. Skills and knowledge are developed and applied in more than one area of study. In keeping with this thematic definition, Shoemaker defines an integrated curriculum as … education that is organized in such a way that it cuts across subject matter lines, bringing together various aspects of the curriculum into meaningful association to focus upon broad areas of study. It views learning and teaching in a holistic way and reflects the real world, which is interactive.

Within this framework there are varied levels of integration, as illustrated by Palmer (1991, p. 9), who describes the following practices: Developing cross-curriculum sub objectives within a given curriculum guide Developing model lessons that include cross-curricular activities and assessments Developing enrichment or enhancement activities with a cross-curricular focus including suggestions for cross-curricular “contacts” following each objective Developing assessment activities that are cross-curricular in nature Including sample planning wheels in all curriculum guides.

What is integrated curriculum? is important to understand that curriculum integration is an idea that has a strong round them; sometimes this was motivated by political means (Beane 1991). Educational reform has roots dating as far back as the progressive era. The philosophy behind educational reform during the progressive era centered around an emphasis on student creativity, applicable outcomes, “natural” learning, and student experience (Rousmaniere, 1999).

This belief system has been the fundamental base for integrated curriculum. Supporters of the progressive educational reform believed that the different disciplines prevented students from making connections between the different subjects. Therefore, the relevance of the aterial decreased (Taylor, 1995).

Components of Integrated Curriculum Focuses on basic skills, content and higher level thinking Encourages lifelong learning Structures learning around themes, big ideas and meaningful concepts Provides connections among various curricular disciplines Provides learners opportunities to apply skills they have learned Encourages active participation in relevant real-life experiences Captivates, motivates, and challenges learners Provides a deeper understanding of content Offers opportunities for more small group and industrialized instruction Accommodates a variety of learning styles/theories (i. , social learning theory, cooperative learning, intrinsic motivation, and self-efficacy) and multiple intelligences RESPONSIBILITY Supportive partnerships around a child provide the kind of environment in which families, schools, and the community work together to achieve and sustain shared goals for children. Ongoing communication and interaction encourages appropriate and effective learning opportunities for children.

A well-defined plan is required for incorporating a wide range of family involvement and educational opportunities into the early childhood education program. Trust and respect are essential to building ollaborative and interactive relationships between school staff and families. These relationships promote the sharing of ideas and learning from each other. An integral component of the partnership is the recognition of the family members as the experts on their children.

The program and the program staff must always show respect for the child, the family and the culture of the home. Governance and Structure The program design provides structure and policies that encourage and support partnerships among home, school and the community at large: Family members are involved in aspects of program design and governance (e. . , advisory councils and school leadership/management teams). Opportunities are provided for preschool staff and families to develop the skills necessary to actively and effectively participate in the governance process (e. g. workshops offered by the program, seminars sponsored by the Department of Education, speakers and activities sponsored by colleges and universities and/or child advocacy organizations). Advisory council meetings and parent programs are held at times conducive to family participation (i. e. , activities are not always scheduled at 3 p. m. or at 9 a. m. when most people are t work). Program policies actively encourage and support family involvement (e. g. , within the program, family members are encouraged to observe in classrooms, family members see and interact with program administrators formally and informally).

Culture and Diversity The program design ensures recognition and respect for culture and diversity: Classroom materials reflect the characteristics, values and practices of diverse cultural groups (e. g. , there are books in a variety of languages; the art work reflects a broad spectrum of people living and working in many different locations and climates). Cultural and religious practices are acknowledged and respected throughout the year (e. g. , absences for religious holidays are allowed, dietary restrictions are respected, culturally driven reasons for nonparticipation in some school activities are honored).

The uniqueness of each family is recognized and respected by all members of the school community (e. g. , language, dress, structure, customs). Cultural traditions are shared in the classroom and throughout the program (e. g. , pictures of specific activities that a student may have participated in are displayed in the classroom). Community Resources and Partnerships The program design ensures opportunities for building partnerships and accessing community resources: Information and referrals regarding community resources are provided to the family, such as employment, health and adult education classes.

Large corporations, small businesses and other organizations are invited to collaborate in supporting children and families (e. g. , creating a community resource board). Collaborations between the program and community agencies are facilitated to ensure delivery of services to the family (e. g. , a program can offer a meeting space for families to interact with community agencies). Family Support The program design recognizes the family as the expert about its child. Resources are provided to the family members to enhance the social, emotional, physical and cognitive development of their children (e. . , a newsletter with ideas for educational trips, a listing of books to support the development of emergent literacy and numeracy skills, discussion sessions to share information about activities at local museums and libraries). Support networks among families with children enrolled in the program are developed (e. g. , monthly potlucks, game days for adults, fairs and raft shows to promote and support the talents of families, babysitting cooperatives, welcome wagons and buddy families).

Family activities are planned at varying times of the day and week to encourage the participation of as many families as possible (e. g. , at breakfast, at the end of the work day and on weekends). Encourage family members to visit the program when it is most convenient for them (e. g. , to observe their child, volunteer during play, participate at meals and special events). Physical Environment Provides learning centers that encourage integration of multiple content areas (e. g. n the library center there will be big books, picture books, books with words for adults to read, books representing a broad range of topics, headsets with audiotapes, stories on the computer; in the block center there will be large unit blocks, hollow blocks, cardboard vehicles, audio tapes, pencil, paper and architectural magazines). wanting to read alone, quietly listen to a book read by an adult or listen to music through head sets; while the block area encourages lots of movement and discussion to plan and complete projects). Provides materials that deepen awareness and knowledge of diversity and multiculturalism (e. , dolls of different ethnicities and race, musical instruments from a variety of cultures, stories that show how one event is interpreted differently by different cultural groups). Allows children easy access to materials. Provides an ample supply of materials. Offers opportunities for solitary, parallel and group play in view of an adult. Provides space for individual, small- and large-group experiences, both indoors and outdoors. Displays classroom materials at children’s eye level. Creates a literacy-rich environment through a variety of sources for print, audio, video and non-print media.

Daily Routines Encourage the development of self-confidence by offering multiple opportunities for making choices, such as deciding on projects, selecting centers or inviting classmates to be a part of an activity. Encourage curiosity, problem-solving and the generation of ideas and fantasy through exploration. Include activities to meet the individual needs of all children and provide opportunities for success (e. g. , recognizing that a particular student would benefit from more fine motor activities by collaborating on a painting activity).

Provide opportunities for talk and self-expression in English and in he child’s home language. Encourage and model the use of language in different social groups and situations. Stimulate questioning and discussions during all activities. Include the use of technology, such as computers with age-appropriate software, to enhance the development of critical thinking skills. RESPONSIBILITIES (Major responsibilities and target accomplishments expected of the position including the typical problems encountered in carrying out the responsibilities. )