Integrated
Curriculum Units

 

Ida McCann & Claire Hiller l

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Both Primary and Secondary teachers in Tasmania have been experiencing the value of using and developing integrated curriculum units, an approach to curriculum delivery which is deliberate, substantial and thorough. Each unit has a strong 'host' learning area at its core and brings in other learning areas when there are strong conceptual connections. The subject matter for each unit is both serious and significant and learning becomes more coherent for students when the logical connections between the processes and content of a number of learning areas are made explicit. Teaching purposes and intentions are specifically identified as are tasks and expectations of outcomes.

Although integrated studies does not constitute the whole curriculum, many skills taught in subject specific time can be practiced and applied within a real life context in an integrated unit, or ideas introduced in an integrated unit can be explored in dedicated time. 'Integrating the curriculum is a powerful way of planning for connections to occur and of delivering a coherent and holistic curriculum experience to students' says Jenni Connor, Manager, Educational Programs, Department of Education, Community and Cultural Development, Tasmania. Jenni is the leader and coordinator of a collaborative project between the DECCD Tasmania and Curriculum Corporation for the development of integrated curriculum units. The first volume of integrated curriculum units was published in February 1996 and since it was a collaborative project at a national level teachers across Australia were involved in their development.

Teachers in Tasmania have continued using this design for work on curriculum development. Integrated units have now been developed by teachers working collegially across grades and faculties from K-10. This opportunity to develop understandings of conceptual connections, to share and record best practice and plan collaboratively has been beneficial for the Professional Development of all those involved. The challenge was to interpret curriculum change and innovation into the lived world of the classroom; enable the students to be intellectually and emotionally engaged with what they learn; and make relevant connections with the world they live in. The result of meeting this challenge is that there are now 79 units available as a curriculum resource for teachers and students all over Australia. Tasmanian students are integrating their learning, exploring a variety of ways to come to know about and understand subject matter whilst at the same time fostering a critical, active, investigative and independent approach to their learning.

The current challenge taken up by Tasmanian teachers is the development of on-line integrated units for students not attending regular schools. The nature of this audience, many of whom have had limited schooling and limited literacy and numeracy skills, poses additional challenges for the teachers who are developing these specific integrated units. They need to ensure that all resources are available and investigate a variety of possible resources. Provision must be made for frequent on-line feedback and constant interactive processes for each student. What these on-line integrated units have in common with those that have been already developed and published is that they offer clarity in relation to educational targets and criteria for assessing and reporting on learning outcomes.

Ida McCann and Claire Hiller, Faculty of Education, University of Tasmania

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