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Integrated Learning - across the Atlantic

Posted By: Warren Liew on December 13, 2003
Hi Sean,

Your description of the "integrated" or "interdisciplinary" program sounds familiar and certainly more ambitious than the one attempted in my secondary school (boys aged 13 to 16). In our efforts to promote whole-school curriculum reform, small-scale interdisciplinary programs were launched, prior to a larger scale pilot project involving the integrated teaching of English Literature and History that was carried out as part of an ongoing action research cycle.

The existing literature makes subtle distinctions between "crossdisciplinary", "interdisciplinary", "transdisciplinary" -- according to degrees of "integration." I'm sure that in practice every program has features that correspond to these varying degrees of separation, as it were. The most significnat difference to me, I think, is that between intention and execution. Reform is often easier said than done. Whole-school integrated learning is not at all easy to implement as it entails a great deal of collaborative effort on the part of teachers and students.

For the record, the Integrated Humanities (IH) curriculum in The Chinese High School (Singapore) aims to provide a platform for achieving enriching the learning outcomes of the various Humanities subjects taught at the secondary school level within the national curriculum. Interdisciplinarity adopts a knowledge paradigm that consciously applies methodology and content from more than one discipline to examine a central theme, issue, problem or experience. Within my school's IH framework, Literature, History, Geography, Social Studies are taught with rigorous, subject-specific content that seeks to be parallel and aligned within the school term. Eventually, assignments are set that require students to consciously weave common thematic threads (for instance, the consequences of 'modernization' in Singapore) between these subjects, to provide multiple mutually reinforcing perspectives on complex issues in the real world. The traditional overarching component would be the study of the Languages, which will supply learners with the reading, writing and communication skills requisite to all disciplines.

All the best for your paper!

Warren Mark Liew
English Teacher
The Chinese High School
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 teaching the curriculum differently by sean mcglennon on September 10, 2003
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