Ever since I started teaching some 16 years ago, teachers, managers and leaders in schools have always talked about the need to make more cross-curricular links between subjects. But that’s just it. We talk about making links, we even write them into schemes of work, to tick the box, but actually are any meaningful links really ever made across the curriculum in secondary schools?
Do we need students to make links?
I would argue ‘Yes’. Elements of our lives cross over, intertwine and get tangled up. We use the skills we develop at work in the home and vice versa. So surely we should be encouraging students to be making those links early on. There are many skills that are appropriate in nearly every subject. In schools we usually work in separate silos… What happens in Geography, stays in Geography! Student learning is often compartmentalised. The skills they learn about writing essays in History should help them to write essays in English and Geography, but they don’t. I remember asking a student about whether she wrote essays in English. When she said that she did, I asked why she didn’t use the say rules in her Geography essay. She said “Why would I… That’s English.. this is Geography”.
But then, why should the students made links? Most teachers don’t. How many teachers of History know what the colleagues in their Science department teach? How many teachers in the English department in a school know what is being taught to the same students in Geography an hour later? Not many I would suggest. So it is no surprise that the students don’t make links, if the teachers don’t either.
So what can we do about it?
Somehow you need to create a more integrated curriculum where links are made explicit and skills can be easily transferred. So, since September 2011, I have been working in my school to develop the AMYC – Abbeyfield Middle Years Curriculum. This is based on the International Middle Years Curriculum (IMYC) and is designed to encourage a more cohesive, joined-up approach to teaching across the curriculum – whilst still covering the National Curriculum and delivering lessons in discreet subjects.
After much planning, discussion, late nights, navel-gazing and sweaty palms, we launched the AMYC with Year 7 in September 2012 and are now half way through the first year. Having worked our way through the planning and delivery of our first three units, things seem to be moving along pretty well.
With all new innovative and creative ventures, there have been some successes, some surprises and some failures along the way. But the thing that has struck me the most is the ability of the students, once in the right mindset, to make lots of links across the curriculum and to be reflective and evaluative when given the opportunity. As a teacher, for the first time in my career, I now know what they teach in the other subjects in Year 7. It’s been a revelation!
It is still early days and it will take a number of years to develop, evaluate, revise and embed but I am convinced that we are on the right track. We have just embarked on the Phase Two planning process which will see the AMYC being launched in Year 8 as well from September 2013. I’ll let you know how it goes!
To find out more, I am logging our progress on a separate dedicated blog, which can be viewed here: AMYC – UK
Does your Year 7 and 8 whole-school curriculum lack focus? Are you thinking of updating your whole-school KS3 curriculum?