A lingering question for middle school: what is the fate of Integrated Curriculum? (Issue in Education).How can middle level educators support and defend integrated curriculum when faced with the demands of the standards-based reform movement? Before a response to this thought-provoking question can be proposed, a brief glimpse at the history of and long-standing interest in integrated curriculum might be helpful.
Interest in Integrated Curriculum
Integrated curriculum captured the attention of educators long before the advent of the middle school concept. As junior high schools moved away from a subject-centered curriculum, other curricular options emerged (Toefler, 1997). In the 1930s, for example, the progressive movement advocated a problem-centered, core curriculum centering on themes drawn from social issues (Beane, 1993). In the 1960s, curriculum models became more responsive to middle level students' developmental characteristics, and thus targeted unifying themes. The interdisciplinary in·ter·dis·ci·pli·nar·y
Of, relating to, or involving two or more academic disciplines that are usually considered distinct.
Adjective concept model described by Jacobs (1989) is a way to systematically connect discipline perspectives when investigating a problem or theme. Beane's multidimensional mul·ti·di·men·sion·al
Of, relating to, or having several dimensions.
multi·di·men model (1993) centered on thematic the·mat·ic
1. Of, relating to, or being a theme: a scene of thematic importance.
2. units that drew from the intersecting in·ter·sect
v. in·ter·sect·ed, in·ter·sect·ing, in·ter·sects
1. To cut across or through: The path intersects the park.
2. concerns of young adolescents and issues in the larger world. Many educators concur CONCUR - ["CONCUR, A Language for Continuous Concurrent Processes", R.M. Salter et al, Comp Langs 5(3):163-189 (1981)]. with Beane's position that "curriculum is a central and crucial factor in the life of a school" (p. 1).
Focus on Integrated Curriculum
In order to help young adolescents make sense out of their life experiences and connect school experiences to their daily lives outside of school, curriculum needs to be integrative (National Middle School Association, 1995). A truly integrated curriculum enables teachers and their students to make connections between their school learning experiences and real life (Caskey, 1996), while the separate subject approach leaves students with a disconnected view of knowledge that "fails to reflect the way that real people attack problems in the real world" (Daniels & Bizar, 1998, p. 20). Certainly, relevance is the touchstone touchstone
Black, silica-containing stone used in assaying to determine the purity of gold and silver. The metal to be assayed is rubbed on the touchstone, and then a sample of metal of known purity is rubbed on the stone right next to it. of integrated curriculum.
Support for the Integrated Curriculum Approach
A substantial body of theory and research supports the integrated curriculum design. Curriculum theorists (e.g., Beane, 1990; Jacobs, 1989; Vars, 1997) advocate for integrated curriculum models because they center on the problems and interests of young adolescent learners. Perkins (1989) asserts that integrated curricular themes serve as a valuable lens for understanding student thinking. Other scholars and practitioners (e.g., Daniels & Bizar, 1998; Five & Dionisio, 1996; Pate, 2001; Zemelman, Daniels, & Hyde, 1998) detail exemplars of integrated curriculum.
The research base on the effectiveness of integrated curriculum for student achievement is expanding. Vars and Beane (2000) found from a review of research evidence that students engaged in interdisciplinary or integrated programs do as well academically, and frequently better, than those in traditional separate subject programs. Drake drake
1. male duck.
2. loliumtemulentum. (1998) presents numerous findings from both quantitative and qualitative studies that substantiate To establish the existence or truth of a particular fact through the use of competent evidence; to verify.
For example, an Eyewitness might be called by a party to a lawsuit to substantiate that party's testimony. the effects of integrated curriculum. In addition, integrated curriculum has been shown to increase student motivation, elicit e·lic·it
tr.v. e·lic·it·ed, e·lic·it·ing, e·lic·its
a. To bring or draw out (something latent); educe.
b. To arrive at (a truth, for example) by logic.
2. higher order thinking, and build stronger interpersonal skills "Interpersonal skills" refers to mental and communicative algorithms applied during social communications and interactions in order to reach certain effects or results. The term "interpersonal skills" is used often in business contexts to refer to the measure of a person's ability (Vars, 1997); Davies (1992) reported improved rates of student involvement, based on five years of student evaluation data. Clearly, research and a strong theoretical base validate To prove something to be sound or logical. Also to certify conformance to a standard. Contrast with "verify," which means to prove something to be correct.
For example, data entry validity checking determines whether the data make sense (numbers fall within a range, numeric data the use of integrated curriculum.
Why Does Acceptance of Integrated Curriculum Models Remain So Elusive?
Integrating curriculum requires complex change, which may make teachers, school administrators, and parents uncomfortable. Hargreaves, Earl, Moore, and Manning (2001) point out that "integrated or interdisciplinary curriculum is one of the most ambitious yet also contentious aspects of educational reform, as it seeks to connect classroom learning to the lives and understandings of all students" (p. 83).
Integrated curriculum departs from the conventional and deeply entrenched en·trench also in·trench
v. en·trenched, en·trench·ing, en·trench·es
1. To provide with a trench, especially for the purpose of fortifying or defending.
2. attitudes that support subject-centered approaches to curriculum. Although many national organizations (Daniels & Bizar, 1998), schools, universities, state departments of education, and commercial textbooks and tests (Beane, 1993) are built on traditional subject separations, a more responsive approach for young adolescents is warranted. A separate subject approach distorts the ways that middle level learners experience life (Beane, 1993) and ignores mounting evidence that adolescence adolescence, time of life from onset of puberty to full adulthood. The exact period of adolescence, which varies from person to person, falls approximately between the ages 12 and 20 and encompasses both physiological and psychological changes. is a time when curricular coherence coherence, constant phase difference in two or more Waves over time. Two waves are said to be in phase if their crests and troughs meet at the same place at the same time, and the waves are out of phase if the crests of one meet the troughs of another. and relevance are paramount.
Integrating curriculum is intellectually demanding and time-consuming work. Many teachers have few models of integrated curriculum and/or have little or no personal experience with integrating curriculum. Teachers are not afforded adequate time for developing integrated curriculum, nor given opportunities to share their experiences. Authentic integrated curriculum cannot be accomplished in a single after-school workshop or one-day inservice program An Inservice Program is a professional lecture, where professionals discuss research and cases involving their work for others in their peer group. It is a key component of medical education for Physicians, Pharmacists, and other professionals. . Integrated curriculum, like any education innovation or change, takes enormous reserves of energy and commitment, as well as additional resources and continual support from administrators and parents.
Academic Standards and Integrated Curriculum
Academic standards and integrated curriculum are not mutually exclusive Adj. 1. mutually exclusive - unable to be both true at the same time
incompatible - not compatible; "incompatible personalities"; "incompatible colors" . After all, academic standards are the agreed-upon statements of what students should know and be able to do (Jackson & Davis, 2000). At the school level, teachers develop subject-centered or integrated curriculum based on these agreed-upon standards. Jackson and Davis (2000) reason that "standards support the twin towers of education: excellence and equity" (p. 32). Accordingly, targeting selected academic standards for inclusion in integrated units of curriculum appears reasonable. Less reasonable is the sheer volume of academic standards required by many standards-based reform movements. Perspectives on whether integrated curriculum and standards are compatible vary considerably.
On the one hand, some teachers are finding ways to align align (līn),
v to move the teeth into their proper positions to conform to the line of occlusion. academic standards with their integrated units of curriculum. Wiggins and McTighe's (1998) "backward design process" guides teachers to consider the established standards and frame a set of essential questions for the unit of study. Pate (2001) records how teachers make sense of, and integrate, the standards in a responsive, relevant, and engaging curriculum. Vars and Beane (2000) recommend that teachers use sets of standards-based "common learnings" compiled by educational think tanks when developing curriculum. Nevertheless, teachers of integrated curriculum must cope with societal so·ci·e·tal
Of or relating to the structure, organization, or functioning of society.
Adj. pressures for standards-based reform and state tests, while valuing the needs, problems, and concerns of young adolescents (Vars & Beane, 2000). As curriculum designers, these classroom teachers ultimately accept responsibility for addressing the standards within their planned, integrated curriculum.
On the other hand, standards-based reform creates an uneasy relationship in schools. Hargreaves et al. (2001) caution that meeting the demands of standard-based reform may lead to a curriculum that is overstandardized, under-resourced, deprofessionalized, and narrow in scope. Teachers face an overwhelming number of competencies listed for each subject-specific standard. Two other questions arise: 1) How can teachers reconcile their open-ended classroom assessments with the state-mandated, high-stakes tests? 2) How should teachers report student learning from integrated curriculum on subject-specific report cards? These are the practical issues that confound con·found
tr.v. con·found·ed, con·found·ing, con·founds
1. To cause to become confused or perplexed. See Synonyms at puzzle.
2. middle level teachers as they work to integrate curriculum. Hargreaves et al. (2001) remind middle level educators that
alongside this movement of standards-based reform is growing concern worldwide about the apparent disengagement disengagement /dis·en·gage·ment/ (dis?en-gaj´ment) emergence of the fetus from the vaginal canal.
n. of many young adolescents from their schooling and about the risks they increasingly encounter in their lives.... Standards-based reform therefore appears to have an ambivalent am·biv·a·lent
Exhibiting or feeling ambivalence.
Adj. 1. relationship to the kinds of schooling and teaching that work best for young adolescents. (p. xii)
Tensions created by the high-stakes tests and other aspects of standards-based reform may ultimately undermine efforts to create relevant, integrated curriculum for young adolescents.
Among the consequences of failing to provide young adolescents with an authentic, integrated curriculum may be further decline in student learning, poor academic achievement, and a loss of public confidence in the middle level school as an academic institution (Caskey, 1996). Some educators advocate replacing traditional subject-centered curriculum with integrated curriculum; others prefer the more conservative approach of enhancing the traditional approach with integrated curriculum. Regardless of the approach used for integrating curriculum and despite the effort required, integrated curriculum is warranted. For the sake of young adolescents, it must prevail.
Beane, J. A. (1993). The middle school curriculum: From rhetoric to reality (2nd ed.). Columbus, OH: National Middle School Association.
Caskey, M. M., with Johnston, J. H. (1996). Hard work ahead: Authentic curriculum under construction. Schools in the Middle, 6(2), 11-18.
Daniels, H., & Bizar, M. (1998). Methods that matter: Six structures for best practice classrooms. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
Davies, M. A. (1992). Are interdisciplinary units worthwhile? Ask students. In J. Lounsbury (Ed.), Connecting the curriculum through interdisciplinary instruction. Columbus, OH: National Middle School Association.
Drake, S. M. (1998). Creating integrated curriculum: Proven ways to increase student learning. Thousand Oaks Thousand Oaks, residential city (1990 pop. 104,352), Ventura co., S Calif., in a farm area; inc. 1964. Avocados, citrus, vegetables, strawberries, and nursery products are grown. , CA: Corwin Press.
Five, C. L., & Dionisio, M. (1996). Bridging the gap: Integrating curriculum in upper elementary and middle schools. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Hargreaves, A., Earl, L., Moore, S., & Manning, S. (2001). Learning to change: Teaching beyond subjects and standards. San Francisco San Francisco (săn frănsĭs`kō), city (1990 pop. 723,959), coextensive with San Francisco co., W Calif., on the tip of a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, which are connected by the strait known as the Golden , CA: Jossey-Bass.
Jackson, A. W., & Davis, G. A. (2000). Turning points 2000: Educating adolescents in the 21st century. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : Teachers College Press.
Jacobs, H. H. (1989). The interdisciplinary concept model: A step-by-step approach for developing integrated units of study. In H. H. Jacobs (Ed.), Interdisciplinary curriculum: Design and implementation (pp. 53-65). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, or ASCD, is a membership-based nonprofit organization founded in 1943. It has more than 175,000 members in 135 countries, including superintendents, supervisors, principals, teachers, professors of education, and .
National Middle School Association. (1995). This we believe: Developmentally responsive middle level schools. Columbus, OH: Author.
Pate, P. E. (2001). Standards, students, and exploration: Creating a curriculum intersection of excellence. In T. S. Dickinson (Ed.), Reinven ting ting
A single light metallic sound, as of a small bell.
intr.v. tinged , ting·ing, tings
To give forth a light metallic sound. the middle school (pp. 79-95). New York: RutledgeFalmer.
Perkins, D. (1989). Selecting fertile fer·tile
1. Capable of conceiving and bearing young.
2. Fertilized. Used of an ovum. themes for integrated learning. In H. H. Jacobs (Ed.), Interdisciplinary curriculum: Design and implementation (pp. 67-76). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Toefler, C. (1997). Middle level curriculum's serendipitous ser·en·dip·i·ty
n. pl. ser·en·dip·i·ties
1. The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.
2. The fact or occurrence of such discoveries.
3. An instance of making such a discovery. history. In J. E. Irvin (Ed.), What current research says to the middle level practitioner (pp. 163-177). Columbus, OH: National Middle School Association.
Vars, G. F. (1997). Effects of integrative curriculum and instruction. In J. E. Irvin (Ed.), What current research says to the middle level practitioner (pp. 179 186). Columbus, OH: National-Middle School Association.
Vars, G. F., & Beane. J. A. (2000). Integrative curriculum in a standards-based world. ERIC Digest. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 441618) [On-line]. Available: www.ed.gov/ databases/ERIC_Digests/ ed441618.html
Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Zemelman, S., Daniels, H., & Hyde, A. (1998). Best practice: New standards for teaching and learning in America's schools (2nd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
The purpose of this column is to stimulate debate of timely issues affecting children, youth, and families. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of Childhood Education or the Association for Childhood Education International.
Permission to reproduce re·pro·duce
1. To produce a counterpart, an image, or a copy of something.
2. To bring something to mind again.
3. To generate offspring by sexual or asexual means. this column intact is not required. Copyright [C] 2001 Association for Childhood Education International.
Micki Caskey is Assistant Professor, Middle Level Education, Graduate School of Education, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon.