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Crowded Curriculum or a Wrong Mindset - The Challenge of Incorperating Interdisciplinary Strands

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) flickr photo by Let Ideas Compete: http://flickr.com/photos/question_everything/4447757532

The big announcement that came out of the recent review into the Australian Curriculum was that it was crowded. There is nothing new about this perspective. People have been making noise for a long time, particularly in regards to the primary curriculum, since the introduction of subjects such as science and history in the Early Years. However, is this really the case or is there something else at play?

One of the areas that people often get caught up with is the interdisciplinary learning. These strands span the areas of: 
  • Communication
  • Design, Creativity and Technology
  • Information and Communication Technology 
  • Thinking Processes

I have been in many different settings and I have yet to see these strands implemented effectively. I remember sitting in a session nearly ten years ago where the presenter explained that the purpose of the strands is not about adding to the curriculum, but about intermingling them through all area of learning. Coming from an inquiry pedagogical point of view, she suggested that it is about making learning more explicit. Although it may be inherent within good teaching, by making it clearer in the curriculum, this removes some of the ambiguity.

There is a view that acknowledges the development of these capabilities as an important role of schooling but regards them either as forms of pedagogy or as attributes that students acquire through a process of osmosis. That is, if the right conditions of learning are put in place and the right learning experiences provided, students will naturally pick up, acquire and develop these attributes. And of course for many students this is the case.
But this same argument was used for many years in relation to the acquisition of literacy skills, that is, that if the right learning conditions were put in place, all children would learn to read. That view has been almost universally rejected in favour of one that recognizes the importance of explicit instruction within a context of rich, meaningful learning conditions.
Sadly, this desire to create a rich and meaningful context is often lost on many educators who begrudgingly worry about who is assessing what, missing the point that the students are more often than not already doing the skills within their learning whether they choose to realise this or not.

I was again faced with this connundrum this week as we were put in a team to write the 'ICT' comment bank. Returning to the VCAA guidelines, there is reference made to electives. However, from my reading there was no reference to making ICT an explicit subject. I know I should be glad that students have the opportunity to 'study' ICT, but really they should be doing many of these things within their own learning. As +George Couros points out, "Technology should be at the point of instruction and be as accessible in learning as a pencil; it shouldn’t be an event. How many pencil labs do you have in your school?" The problem is that ICT is often confused with computer science. I have subsequently spent the last two years trying to shake the moniker of the 'ICT' teacher, instead focusing on topics such as media, publishing and robotics as the drivers for deeper learning and investigation.

The question that I have then is whether it is the curriculum really is over-crowded or do we just need to think more creatively about how we cover the different domains? How are you combating the crowd and covering all facets of learning, I would love to know.

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