Have you ever wondered while sitting in a physics class if math was being taught? Did you think that lessons from chemistry were being mixed up with biology? The terms and concepts may all seem to be inter-related despite their different natures. Life is but a collection of relationships and interdependencies.
While working for companies in the corporate world, I used to make project reports, as a part of my consulting and financial advisory role. These reports always started with a study of the markets i.e. – Geographic’s and Demographics. There was study on the historic trends and facts for that market which reminded me of a lot of my social-studies class. While at school I never imagined I would need social-studies after my engineering. It makes complete sense now!
After collecting the data, based on History, Civics and Geography – we used statistical methods to arrange and analyze the collected data. The data was then presented in charts or graphs for the audience to understand, which they would have appreciated more with pictures than text. If they liked the graphs they would advise us to build the “Product”. Science was the key to building a “Product”, mostly Physics and Chemistry with some math on quantities for purchase and scheduling. We also made some projections of cost and market share etc. If I keep the management theory aside – it was all of math and probabilities. Finally, I created reports which was language (English for me). Life was one but integrated piece, albeit with complexities.
I am convinced we can’t change it. Things are inter-related. It will be as integrated for a doctor or a Banker. It makes sense. Good Sense!
So, what do we do in schools? Let’s trickle the integration effect to schools. Don’t you think we have to find ways to integrate subjects and create logical relationships. I believe we can create more opportunities by applying the learning from one subject to another if we can integrate them. In an inter disciplinary approach we can arrange common learning across subjects. For this we need to create “Themes” first. A theme is a broad umbrella under which lessons from different subjects can be categorized. Lessons could be from any subject – this approach help establish the connection.
Let’s consider an example, “INVENTIONS & DISCOVERIES” as a theme. For us to teach inventions we can:
- bundle science – say for grade 5 or 6
- add Historical facts about inventions and inventors (History)
- calculate / discuss formulae used for the invention (Math)
- report findings write opinions etc in our language lessons etc.
So, under the theme of “Inventions & Discoveries” we could combine the four subjects. Now extrapolate to many such themes we can define. We could also keep increasing the complexity within a theme, for higher grades.
For a school to accomplish the theme-based learning – we may have to start with
- Defining the Learning outcomes as per the National Curriculum Framework
- Listing the Learning Outcomes by grade / complexity
- Creating themes around these Learning Outcomes
- Gathering lessons and exercises / activities for each theme
- If a theme is too wide – arranging by increasing complexity over 2-3 years of learning.
Theme-based learning will definitely be more helpful than the current subject based silos. Themes can be added as we evolve as a society. More subjects can be integrated. School education can be much more meaningful. This also means that teachers will have to learn and adapt / partner to teach these themes rather than teaching mere subjects. They have to be trained to think and deliver holistically.