Contrary to common beliefs, the way schools organize their subjects may hinder student learning. Let me explain. Traditionally subjects hold a discrete set of concepts and understandings unrelated to other disciplines. However such thinking isolates teachers from collaborating with their peers. Furthermore overemphasizing discipline knowledge restricts student’s ability to transfer learning into the other subjects.
Fortunately today’s curriculum are have interdisciplinary elements to extend learning into other disciplines. The interdisciplinary approach concentrates on teaching worthwhile knowledge applicable to other disciplines. For instance, understanding the cyclical phases of the moon is specific to Earth science. However, finding evidence from observed patterns, such as the moon phases, is useful. As such, an interdisciplinary perspective strengthens student learning.
AIS middle school art teacher, Ms Kelsey Long, is one fine example of an interdisciplinary educator. She recently told me that “learning should not be in a vacuum.” In essence students learn best when they can apply learning in one class to other subjects. Through collaboration with other teachers, she integrates other subject knowledge into her art lessons.
One of Ms Long’s interdisciplinary teaching units was to enhance Renaissance history using art. Working with the humanities teacher, Ms Long taught students art techniques from that period. Her class painted in the style of Renaissance artists using egg tempera, oil paint, and fresco techniques that were used during the Renaissance era. These lessons allowed students to empathise with the historical artists. Thus, students’ understanding about the Renaissance was deepened through this experience.
Ms Long finds ways to combine other subject’s content knowledge into her art lessons. In a Russian constructivist art lesson, Ms Long related societal ideologies to art. Students learned how societal ideologies are often reflected or communicated through the artistic style of the time. Such connections are invaluable for to broadening students’ perspective. Making multi-disciplinary associations help students recall and apply knowledge in different contexts.
Ms Long explains that art can re-enforce the skills from other disciplines. For example, learning about perspective drawing supports the concept of object scaling in science. Another example is from Ms Long’s printmaking unit. Students re-iterated many copies of print artwork by making incremental improvements at each stage. Likewise, the re-iterative skill is necessary for computer studies. Programming requires many cycles ofwriting, debugging and optimisation of codes. Finally Ms Long teaches students to use visual observational evidence to draw conclusions. Making inferences and synthesising conclusions are enduring skills applicable to many subjects.
Exceptional learning is taking place at AIS. Ms Long is one of the many AIS teachers making this happen. By teaching art outside “the vacuum” she is helping our students understand our world. Without doubt, AIS will continue to find new ways to make learning meaningful.
From AIS Eagle-i