This is the fifth and final post in a series of posts about learning standards. We recognize we must go beyond the state standards in order to support teaching and learning to the highest possibilities for our PK-12 students in Texas. We read in the high level alignment indicators of the Visioning Document Implementation Matrix:
Students learning is based on challenging, meaningful content standards that have been articulated, specified, and described PK-12. Learning standards in all content areas extend beyond the state curriculum including such things as:
- clarification/enhancement of the cognitive demand of the standards
- supports for ensuring that students have access to the full content of the discipline
- identification/clustering of “power” standards to ensure depth over breadth
- communicating linkages across disciplines.
The first post in this series mentioned the importance of awareness and regular access to the state standards in order to ground ourselves in the practice of standards-focused or standards-driven instruction. The second post in this series described the clarification/enhancement of the cognitive demand of the standards. The third post in this series clarified the supports needed to ensure that students have access to the full content of the discipline. The fourth post in this series articulated high-priority (“power”) learning standards to ensure depth over breadth of content. This fifth and final post dives into the communication of linkages across disciplines.
Traditionally, our view of student learning looks like the image below. We work to build the connections between our students and the content within each of their classes. For a set period of time each day, say 45 minutes, the students read, explore, investigate, or create content directly related to one subject area. Then, they move on to the next.
The thought of a system in which students must turn on a switch for a set amount of time, then turn off that switch, pause for 5 minutes, and turn on the next switch is exhausting. Operating in this on-off-on-off structure hampers the students’ potential to make connections between content and maximize the conceptual learning.
Ultimately, we should work toward a view of student learning more like the image below, working to build connections between and among the content areas.
When our learning standards includes communication of linkages across disciplines, we empower our teachers and students to create connections and maximize true understanding. The first steps toward moving to such connections include giving ourselves permission – permission to talk about writing in science, scientific hypotheses in math, reading for author’s purpose in social studies. We must give ourselves permission as educators to include someone else’s content in our classes and we must give others’ permission to do so as well.
In addition, we should consider the perspective of our students – we should work to support their connection-seeking minds by giving them a hook to hang their new ideas on, a connection to a concept they already understand even if it is not in the scope of our course.
Our learning standards and curriculum documents must include linkages across the disciplines to foster this interdependent network of ideas for our students. Begin small, but begin somewhere. Allow the ideas of each subject area to bleed into one another for the students’ sake.