03 SES 13 B, Curriculum Issues Related to the Integration of Competences and Transferable Skills
Over the past few decades, Organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have helped homogenize educational policy in many instances and a form of ‘policy borrowing’ or ‘policy learning’ has emerged between many different countries (Priestley, 2002 and Sahlberg, 2007). This has occurred where features of overseas policies have been taken and adapted to fit a new context.
The influence of the global stage is hard to deny when considering Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), (Scottish Executive, 2006). For example, when considering the United Nations Educational Scientific Cultural Organization (UNESCO) document ‘The Treasure Within’ (Delors, 1996), it can be seen, that most of the themes running through this document can be found within CfE. ‘The Treasure Within’ states that there are ‘four pillars of education’ which are ‘learning to know’, ‘learning to do’, ‘learning to live’ (together) and ‘learning to be’. These strongly resemble the four capacities of CfE namely, ‘successful learners’, ‘effective contributors’, ‘responsible citizens’ and ‘confident individuals’.
One feature of the new curricular models is the emphasis placed on giving students transferable, generic skills through a focus on ‘citizenship’, ‘learning for life’ and studying ‘cross cutting themes’ which blur disciplinary boundaries. This in turn has led to interdisciplinary learning (IDL) being named as one of the four contexts for learning within CfE. The themes of ‘lifelong learning’ and developing ‘skills for life’ have underpinned many subsequent educational policies, and promote practices that are based on mainly constructivist theories of learning, on the premise, that we now require a knowledge economy which produces workers with adaptability, and capable of responding to rapid change in the job market. This in turn places an emphasis on the need for conceptual creativity (Reeves 2016).
Within CfE, the need for skills development features very heavily and IDL is promoted as something which provides a vehicle for this type of skills building and conceptual creativity. CfE suggests that IDL provides a space in the curriculum to enable learners to delve beyond disciplinary boundaries and make connections across subject areas. As a result, interdisciplinary education has become a prevalent topic, over the past decade, in both primary and secondary schools in Scotland and has been linked with fostering critical thinking, increasing knowledge retention, enhancing ability to synthesize or integrate perspectives, promoting creativity and developing transferable skills. Pupil voice is a key feature of IDL, with some advocates suggesting that democratic processes should be involved to ensure all students are included, motivated and engaged throughout the process (Beane, 1997).
It is unclear, however, how IDL is understood and implemented by practitioners in Scottish schools, as little research has been done in this area. What do teachers understand by the term ‘interdisciplinary learning’? Are IDL practices child centred or subject centred? Are they democratic and inclusive? Could IDL provide an answer to the economic skills gap? This paper presents the results of two case studies, by taking a closer look at the nature of interdisciplinarity and investigating how it is understood by primary classroom practitioners, and translated into practice within primary classes. This is done by, considering the research findings from two different Scottish primary schools, where teachers’ understandings and classroom practices are examined in relation to IDL.
This study was designed within a pragmatic constructionist research paradigm. A case study approach was adopted with data gathered from semi-structured interviews which were digitally recorded, classroom observations and the gathering of planning and policy materials. To analyse the data generated from this study, a cross case analysis mixed with a narrative approach were used. Factors such as: policy context; environment; school cultures and traditions are taken into consideration, in order, to understand their impact on teacher agency and make sense of the findings. This study aims to provide some clarity around IDL practices and to open discussion on the subject among practitioners. It goes on to make recommendations for future practice regarding IDL.
The findings from this study indicated that teachers lack conceptual clarity about the main elements of IDL and that the planning formats they work with are not conducive to truly interdisciplinary learning. Overwhelmingly, the activities described by teachers in this study and observed during class visits, could be categorised as mainly cross-curricular and not genuinely interdisciplinary. In order for genuine IDL to be facilitated there are a number of factors which need to be addressed which include: professional development and collegiality, institutional and political support, time and space for planning and assessment and clearer policy guidance and pedagogical advice.
Beane, J. A. (1997), Curriculum Integration: Designing the Core of Democratic Education, New York & London: Teachers College Press. Delors, J. et al. 1996. Learning: The Treasure Within. Paris, UNESCO Priestley, M. (2002) Global discourses and national reconstruction: the impact of globalisation on curriculum policy, The Curriculum Journal, 13(1), 121-138. Reeves, J. (2016), Mind the Gap: How should we set about teaching the successful learner? Scottish Educational Review 49(2), 25-42 Sahlberg, P. (2007), Education Policies for Raising Student Learning: The Finnish Approach. Journal of Education Policy 22 (2): 147–171. Scottish Executive (2006), A Curriculum for Excellence: Progress and Proposals, Edinburgh: Scottish Executive.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
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