03 SES 06 B, Curriculum Orientations
The global discussion concerning developing the future school has focused on the 21st century skills and competencies (cf. Flynn, 2014). The EU recommendation on key competences for lifelong learning identifies eight key competences that are fundamental for each individual in a knowledge-based society. These include communication and science-based skills as well as more generic skills, such as learning to learn, and social and civic, cultural and entrepreneurship competences. (EU, 2006.) According to Finegold and Notabartolo (2010), the main reason for emphasizing transversal competences is that most new jobs in developed nations are in service and information sectors, which require high levels of general skills. Ananiadou and Claro (2009) state that the acquisition of these competencies is so important to students’ futures as successful employees that they must be incorporated into the national education standards enforced and evaluated by governments. In many countries, the push to incorporate teaching of twenty-first-century skills has been enforced by educational reforms (Gordon et al., 2009).
In 2014, Finnish National Board of Education (FNBE) launched a new curriculum with the aim of developing learning and teaching at Finnish comprehensive school to meet up the requirements of the future. A substantial weight was given to transversal competence areas "that cross the boundaries of and link different fields of knowledge and skills" (FNBE 2014, 21). Seven key transversal competence areas are described in detail and cover aspects of learning, culture, interaction, daily life, multiliteracy, ICT, entrepreneurship, participation and sustainability. To guarantee the learning of the transversal competencies, their role as part of each school subject is made explicit in the curriculum.
Drake and Burns (2004) discuss various methods to integrated curriculum which they comment has been a topic of global educational discussion since the turn of the 20th century. According to them, the multidisciplinary approach may integrate different disciplines in many ways around a common theme, or a chosen theme is fused into the teaching of different disciplines, or it can be arranged in the form of service learning in the community. The interdisciplinary approaches organize the curriculum around common learning across disciplines. Transdisciplinary approach is based on the students' questions and concerns aiming to develop life skills in real-life contexts. In this approach, the students apply interdisciplinary and disciplinary skills in project-based learning which starts with selecting a topic of students' interests. (Drake & Burns, 2004.)
In the Finnish National Curriculum for Basic Education (FNBE, 2014, p. 32), integrative instruction and multidisciplinary learning models are ways to support comprehensive basic education so that the pupils will "see the relationships and interdependencies of the phenomena to be studied". The curriculum leaves the manner and duration of integrative instruction to be decided locally, but gives examples of the ways to arrange them. Moreover, it requires that “a multidisciplinary learning module” should be included in the studies every year.
This paper introduces a case study about a course that an experienced Finnish science teacher developed to reach the targets of transdisciplinary learning and developing the students' transversal competences. The data was gathered from the Finnish 8th grade students' (14-15 years old, N=18) who took part in this course in 2016. The research question is: What competences do the students develop in a (science-based) transdisciplinary course? The analysis looks at the experiences of studying in a project-based course where the students themselves took most responsibility of the contents and methods of learning.
The context of the study was a project where the students planned and built an escape room. This took place in an optional science-related transdisciplinary course which lasted four months, and was arranged in 150-minutes-lesson once a week. The data of this case study consists of individual open-ended questionnaires (N=18) before and after the course. After the project got finished, two of the researchers conducted in-depth interviews with randomly selected pupils (N=10). The questionnaires and interviews focused on the pupils’ motivation to participate in the course, their experiences about the course in general and on their learning, their experiences about teamwork and their own role in it, their views about the role of a teacher, and open feedback on the course. The length of the interviews varied between 17-40 minutes. All the interviews were audio-recorded and then transcribed to be analysed. The analysis was based on the methods of content analysis. All the three researchers took part in each step. A common understanding about the research procedure was gained to increase the trustfulness of the research. First, all the data was read through to find the emerging categories which formed the basis for the analysis. After that, the thematic texts from both the questionnaires and interviews were classified according to the emerged categories. The analysis continued by creating sub-categories representing more detailed themes. Finally, the main categories were generalized to find answers to the research question.
The preliminary results suggest that the target of developing transversal competences was well reached. This course which left the learning process for the student teams, allowed the students to learn and utilize their individual strengths. Some of the students had expected to learn more about science subjects, while some students appreciated the little emphasis that was given to the content knowledge of science. However, most students reflected that they had learned teamwork, problem-solving and holistic thinking. The project-based learning process in this experiment was felt successful because it lasted long enough for the students to get used to the working method. The role of the teacher was more to provide the necessary recourses and be available for support when needed. Many students felt that this kind of learning was beneficial since they would need transversal skills later in their lives. The findings suggest that the students appreciated the possibility to take responsibility of their own learning, and valued learning transversal competences instead of only the subject contents. To achieve the targets, the timeframe of the learning process and the role of the teacher require special attention. The nature of the students' teamwork had a crucial impact on the learning experiences. Most students expressed that a good teamwork requires a commitment of each participant, which was not always the case. The level of satisfaction was connected to the amount of the students' own motivation and devotedness to the learning tasks. Those who felt that they had put a lot of effort on the course tasks felt that they had also gained a lot. Those who expressed not having put little effort, felt that they didn't learn much. These findings suggest that it is essential to concentrate on motivating the students and supporting them in the teamwork.
Ananiadou, K., & Claro, M. (2009). 21st century skills and competencies for new millennium learners in OECD countries. OECD Education Working Papers, No. 41. OECD Publishing. http://www.oecd.org/officialdocuments/publicdisplaydocumentpdf/?cote=EDU/WKP(2009)20&doclanguage=en (Accessed 12 January 2018) Drake, S. & Burns, R. (2004). Meeting Standards through Integrated Curriculum. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development. EU (2006). Recommendations of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 on Key Competences for Lifelong Learning (2006/962/EC). Official Journal of the European Union, 30.12.2006. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=LEGISSUM%3Ac11090 (Accessed 12 January, 2018.) Finegold, D., & Notabartolo, A. S. (2010). 21st-century competencies and their impact: An interdisciplinary literature review. William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. https://www.hewlett.org/library/21st-century-competencies-impact-interdisciplinary-literature-review/ (Accessed 12 January 2018). Flynn, T. (2014). Do They Have What It Takes? A Review of the Literature on Knowledge, Competencies, and Skills Necessary for Twenty-First-Century Public Relations Practitioners in Canada. Canadian Journal of Communication, 39, 361–384. FNBE (2014). National Core Curriculum for Basic Education 2014. Helsinki: Finnish National Board of Education. Gordon, J., Halasz, G., Krawczyk, M., Leney, T., Michel, A., Pepper, D., Putkiewitcz, E. and Wisniewski, J. 2009. Key Competences in Europe: Opening Doors for Lifelong Learners across the School Curriculum and Teacher Education. CASE Network Report, No. 87. Warsaw: Center for Social and Economic Research. https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/87621/1/613705459.pdf (Accessed 11 January 2018.)
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