Mathison and Freeman (1997) discuss the idea that interdisciplinary practice is not a new term and has in fact been in circulation since the 1920s. Recent trends have focussed on four areas where interdisciplinary practice can support student learning:
1) Subjects working together so they align more readily with everyday experiences
2) Greater inclusion of prior knowledge and personal views
3) The importance of research and inquiry in curriculum development
4) That learning needs to be a series of connections and networks essential for success in the 21st century.
Choose 2 potential connections as future goals
Community of Learners
Our Waiuku cluster of schools has a CoL, which is in the final stages of being signed off by the Ministry. I am looking forward to watching and perhaps taking a more active role as the CoL becomes more active. I am curious to see how all the Principals will work collegially and how the concept of ‘improving educational outcomes for all students in our area’ will remain as the central focus – rather than the ‘all about my school’ model. I am also really interested to see what the role of the college is in our CoL. We have 8 primary schools and one college in our cluster. While they are the biggest they are certainly no more innovative than our primary schools. I wonder how the primary school teachers will feel about learning from high school teachers who are set within their one subject, and of course how the high school teachers will feel should a primary teacher be brought in to help them. I can see more benefits between the primary schools, but as I have talked about before, only if each school is comfortable in their own context and willing to allow others in to support.
First Time Principals
Over the next two terms I will have finished Mindlab but be continuing on my journey through the National Aspiring Principals Programme. I have to say I have been really slack in my NAPP readings because I have found the last part of Mindlab time consuming on top of the endless paper work and report writing which take place in term 2. Now that Mindlab has finished I will be able to dedicate the same time each week to catching up with reading and ensuring I fulfil the requirements for that course too. I am still undecided on whether I am a Principal in the making or happy as a 2IC. One thing I know is that the two courses have helped me build connections with other educators, which I know, I will continue after the courses have finished.
Critically discuss benefits and challenges of working in a more interdisciplinary environment
I have talked about some of the challenges above, particularly in relation to our CoL. In order for interdisciplinary connections to work, the individual must be confident in their own role, within their own context and be able to express this to others. They must be able to sell their own knowledge and understanding, while being able to receive the same from others. That is not to say they must change their own practice necessarily but they must be able to appreciate ‘why’ others do things differently. The challenge becomes when individuals (or whole groups/organisations) are not prepared to consider others views or try out alternatives. A collaborative approach will probably not work for these people particularly when including outsiders from their own culture of practice – unless you are open within your own known culture, it is highly unlikely you will consider the views of outsiders freely.
The benefits though do outweigh the challenges. The potential to work with like-minded and opposing view points can only enhance our own and our students understanding of people and how the world works. By embracing the idea that there are multiple solutions to problems and that failing many times not only helps us to become more resilient but allows us to build better solutions, we create students and teachers who are more ready to cope with the challenges of the future.
Mathison, S. & Freeman, M. (1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL. Retrieved from: http://www.albany.edu/cela/reports/mathisonlogic12004.pdf