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ERIC Number: EJ1204875
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2019
Pages: 5
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: EISSN-1938-1611
Collaboration in the Middle: Teachers in Interdisciplinary Planning
Senn, Gary; McMurtrie, Deborah; Coleman, Bridget
Current Issues in Middle Level Education, v24 n1 Article 6 2019
With increased focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and STEAM, educators are looking for ways to integrate disciplines. Planning content around a common theme is an avenue for an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning in the middle grades. Middle grade educators must find ways to relate content to their students in meaningful ways. Cross-curricular integration of content areas is one way to do that. Providing opportunities for students to explore topics connected across content areas strengthens students' understanding and investigation of real-life applications. Middle-level students require ongoing, concrete, experiential learning in order to develop intellectually (AMLE, 2010) and an integrated curriculum that is more compatible with the way their brains work (Vars, 2001). Over 60 years of studies provide evidence that middle-level students perform better with an interdisciplinary or integrated curriculum than with departmentalized programs (Irvin, 1997). Historically, educators such as John Dewey, Howard Gardener, and Benjamin Bloom have emphasized the value of contextual learning. An integrated curriculum can provide students meaningful opportunities to connect learning in and out of school (Beane, 1997; Vars, 2001). Integration promotes the relevance of classroom learning by making the curriculum more meaningful to students' lives (Hargreaves & Moore, 2000). Implementing interdisciplinary unit planning will encourage teachers to move beyond their content areas and provide opportunities to create curriculum more relevant to adolescents (Stolle & Frambaugh-Kritzer, 2014). When teachers work together on teams to coordinate and integrate instruction, teaching and learning outcomes improve (Mertens & Flowers, 2003). The article examines the Center of Excellence in Middle-level Interdisciplinary Strategies for Teaching (CEMIST) which was established to develop and model state-of-the-art teacher training programs with an emphasis on interdisciplinary curriculum development and implementation at the middle school level. A partnership between CE-MIST, three middle schools, and the Aiken Writing Project resulted in the development of twenty-six Traveling Interdisciplinary Literacy Trunks (TILTs). The trunks' introduction was used as the catalyst to connect planning by teachers with activities for students. Ongoing, year-long professional development sessions built on the theme of interdisciplinary strategies for teaching and allowed grade level teachers focused time to collaborate in horizontal planning teams. The CE-MIST literacy trunks align standards from two or more content areas, are framed by essential questions, and are anchored by writing activities that are connected to learning goals. The trunks' unit plans include activities that allow for active student engagement and are easily adapted for students with different backgrounds and abilities.
National Association of Professors of Middle Level Education. Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Middle Schools; Secondary Education; Junior High Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A