Andrews (1990) defines interdisciplinary collaboration as occurring “when different professionals, possessing unique knowledge, skills, organizational perspectives, and personal attributes, engage in coordinated problem solving for a common purpose”. It allows individuals who are based in their practice discipline(s) to focus on collaboration and participate in finding solutions to the increasingly complex problems occurring in the world today. When working in interdisciplinary manner we can draw on multiple perspectives and practices to solve real world problems.
One such example in my practice is an Y11 class we call PACE. This is a class we started five years ago to meet a real need we had. We were noticing large amounts of Y10 students who we felt were not ready to do NCEA in the way the majority of students do it now. Since then we have taken 15-20 students we consider at risk of failing Level 1 and put them in a class with a form teacher where they would be together all day.
My role is form teacher of the group and along with another teacher and a teacher aide who has knowledge of careers meet the needs outlined on my chart. We interlock the teaching programmes this group receives and this has been adapted over time continually and is all internally assessed. In five years only about half a dozen boys out of ninety have failed Level 1. The other principle from this course is that the boys then either move on to full time employment or Gateway in Y12.
Teachers in this programme work superbly together and push each other along. While English and Maths are taught alone appropriate contexts to the boys are found and by so doing all their Literacy and Numeracy Level 1 credits are achieved easily. The other teachers collaborate and integrate their units together and each subject shown in the chart offer about 10-15 credits each. Topics taught will overlap from class to class. Being a form teacher my role is to bring these connections together and make sure the boys understand the reasons why they are doing each part. When students are a concern academically or socially the teachers come together in monthly meetings looking to best solve the issue. We are always looking at new ways of improving teaching and learning. At times some subjects just didn’t fit and were left out. Learning is captivated under real-life theme.
Looking at this classes interdisciplinary connections and in particular mine in it was an interesting task. Not only did I not realise the extent of connectedness, but it also gave me food for thought about my focus for 2018. When reflecting I asked does this relate to the real world? Yes I think for them it does and shows the benefit of my interdisciplinary approach here.
The aspect that impressed me was that all work to support each other by adapting the curriculum to meet the needs of all the learners in this class with complaing. Jones (2009) states that “The Interdisciplinary Approach synthesizes more than on discipline and creates teams of teachers and students that enrich the overall educational experience”. Working in a specialist team like this means passion and enthusiasm from the teachers in their subjects, for the benefit of their students.
So what about the future?
My connection with the Literacy area is poor and has caused me concern. I have never taught the subject and do not have a particular strength in it. This year it took a long time for the boy’s grades to come from there and with literacy credits been so important I believe as a goal in 2018 I need to improve the quality and quantity of collaboration with the teacher of this class. Joint planning with him in early 2018 may also help as some of the contexts he uses and vice versa could be discussed more fully than they have in the past.
Also the Food and Technology areas of the Integrated Studies seems slightly out of tune with the other four areas we cover. Communication will be needed to overcome this and it appears the Technology teacher for these boys is also changing so that may mean a slightly different focus coming also.
There may be also scope for others areas in the future. Agriculture, Budgeting and Horticulture have been mentioned. Discussions must be continued and if it meets the needs the boys we can only look at it. Lastly there may be more possibilities for courses off site.
Jones, C. (2009). Interdisciplinary approach – Advantages, disadvantages, and the future benefits of interdisciplinary studies. ESSAI7 (26), 76-81. Retrieved from http://dc.cod.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1121&context=essai
Mulligan, L. M., & Kuban, A. J. (2015). A Conceptual Model for Interdisciplinary Collaboration. Retrieved from http://acrlog.org/2015/05/14/a-conceptual-model-for-interdisciplinary-collaboration