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Interdisciplinary Teaching at the High School Level. Robert W. Smith Brooke Hazelwood Whitney Clay University of North Carolina Wilmington. Integrated Curriculum definition .

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interdisciplinary teaching at the high school level

Interdisciplinary Teaching at the High School Level

Robert W. Smith

Brooke Hazelwood

Whitney Clay

University of North Carolina Wilmington

integrated curriculum definition
Integrated Curriculum definition

Education that is organized in such a way that it cuts across subject-matter lines, bringing together various aspects of the curriculum into meaningful association to focus upon broad areas of study. It views learning and teaching in a holistic way and reflects the real world, which is interactive. (Shoemaker)

main components
Main components
  • combination of subjects
  • an emphasis on projects
  • sources that go beyond textbooks,
  • relationships among concepts
  • thematic units as organizing principles
  • flexible schedules
  • flexible student groupings (Lake).
forces for change
Forces for Change
  • National Association for Secondary School Principals – Breaking Ranks II Report, 2004

“The high school will reorganize the traditional department structure in order to integrate the school’s curriculum to the extent possible and emphasize depth over breadth”


Collaborative Leadership / Professional Learning Communities

Principal: Vision, Direction & Focus

Site Counsel


Redefine teacher role

Personal Learning Plans for Principal & Teachers

Political/Financial Alliances

Five-Year Review

Small Units

Flexible Scheduling

Democratic Values

90-Student Maximum

Higher Education Partnerships

Celebrate Diversity

Coaching Students

Improved Student Performance

Personal Plans for Progress (PPPs)

Personal Adult Advocate

Families as Partners

Essential Learnings

Alternatives to Tracking

Integrated Curriculum

Real-World Applications

Knowledgeable Teachers

Integrated Assessment

Caring Teachers

Activities/Service Tied to Learning

Community Learning

Critical Thinking

Learning Styles

Youth Service

Personalizing Your School Environment

Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

forces for change1
Forces for Change
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - $922m for high school reform

Support for small high schools – 3R’s

    • Rigorous Instruction – Challenging all students with high expectations
    • Relevant Curriculum – Helping students connect their studies to the real world
    • Meaningful Relationships – Fostering supportive relationships between students and adults
forces for change2
Forces for Change
  • New Schools Project, NC. Supporting theestablishment of forty-five small high schools across the state.


- highly personalized environments

- integrated and relevant curriculum

arguments for interdisciplinary approach
Arguments for Interdisciplinary Approach
  • Avoids the fragmented acquisition of isolated facts. Instead…strength of interdisciplinary approach is in developing students’ ability to make connections and solve multifaceted problems
  • Offers more meaningful learning to students
  • Meaningful learning will increase student achievement

The evidence in support of benefits of Interdisciplinary approach tends to be anecdotal. Few studies particularly looking at effects on learning.

  • Cordogan, 2001, 4 Year study comparing students in an interdisciplinary program (I.P.) (n=247) and those in a traditional discipline-based program (n=161)


  • Students in I.P. had consistently lower absence rates, generally lower suspension rates.
  • Freshmen scores on Iowa Test of Ed. Development were equal or higher
  • ACT data, much higher % of IP students took the test and slightly higher scores
  • IP students were more likely to graduate from high school

Recognizing some limitations of the study, concluded that “the findings solidly support the continuation of IP.”

challenges to implementing an interdisciplinary approach
Challenges to Implementing an Interdisciplinary Approach
  • Resistance of experienced faculty
  • Misinformed parents
  • High-stakes testing and the focus on learning discrete information
  • Ensuring that the roles traditionally served by dept. chairs are met in the reorganization of responsibility
the lyceum academy
The Lyceum Academy

An Interdisciplinary Approach to Secondary Education

An integrated curriculum of the four core subjects within the junior and senior years.

A team of four teachers teach social studies, English, science, and math within a four-hour block of time.

The team stays with the students through their senior year.

the journey begins
The Journey Begins…..

• A challenge from G.Thomas Houlihan, Johnston County Schools.

• Project Genesis

• Interdisciplinary projects experiment.

• Four teachers were hooked.

Of the things we were exposed to during our 3 year educational reform process, several works really stuck out and became the theoretical basis of what was to become the Lyceum.

principles and beliefs
Principles and Beliefs

• The teacher is the single most important factor that affects student performance.

• Schools should be “thoughtful places” where students develop the intellectual habits necessary for a successful life. (Sizer, Horace’s School)

• We believe that schools should create a community of learners who support each other in their educational endeavors.

principles and beliefs cont
Principles and Beliefs cont.

• Schools must teach children how to use the knowledge they acquire. This is more than the mere practical application of a technical skill.

(Sizer, Horace’s School)

• We believe anintegrated curriculum is vastly superior to a modular one. When separated into distinct disciplines, education becomes disjointed. (Marzano, A Different Kind of Classroom)

• Students possess multiple intelligences and that acomprehensive education should teach to all intelligences.

(Lazear, Seven Ways of Knowing)

the lyceum academy1
The Lyceum Academy

• 100 students, 4 teachers, one in each of the core academics.

• 2 year course of study.

• Integrated curriculum b/w the core academics to demonstrate

relevance to the real world.

• Requires many thought-provoking projects which require

much insightful discussion and synthesis of material.

• Assumes homeroom responsibility for fostering a constant

advisor/advisee relationship - we are constantly an

advocate for the student’s future.

the lyceum day
The Lyceum Day

• Flexibility in scheduling is essential. Lyceum students are

assigned to the program for 4 continuous hours from 7:30 AM

to 11:40 AM each day.

•Teachers decide the time needed for each subject and amend

the schedule daily. This allows for maximum utilization of

our educational environment.

•The remainder of the day, students leave The Lyceum to take

additional elective classes.

•The faculty uses these last 2 blocks of time for student

remediation, group planning and individual planning.








junior year curriculum
Junior Year Curriculum

The Junior Year focuses on the United States. There is a natural connection between United States History and American Literature.

Honors English 3 or AP Language and Composition

Honors US History or AP US History

Biology 2 or AP Biology

Honors Algebra 2 or Pre-Calculus

some integrated activities
Some Integrated Activities
  • Scopes Trial and Evolution (Biology)
  • English connections: Actually get to read The Crucible, The Scarlet Letter, The Jungle, Narrative of Frederick Douglas, Thoreau & Emerson, Huck Finn
  • Decades Project (English & History)
senior year curriculum
Senior Year Curriculum

The Senior Year focus is more global with the driving force being Environmental Science.

Honors British Literature or AP Literature

Honors Government & Politics or AP Government & Politics

Honors Environmental Science or AP Environmental Science

Honors Discrete Mathematics or AP Calculus

some integrated activities1
Some Integrated Activities
  • Calculating “Compactness” (fairness of gerrymandered Congressional Districts
  • Policymaking and the Environment
  • Calculating fair voting procedures
  • EPA and Consumer Regulations
sample project
Sample Project

Life Goes On..................

“In 3 words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life-it goes on” Robert Frost

In a 5 minute oral biography, followed by a 3 minute question/answer session, you will demonstrate an understanding of material covered thus far in the four core academic classes. Using your assigned name, birth date and place, death date and place, and artifact, create an historically accurate life that applies your knowledge of the four disciplines. Incorporate 3 tools from the multiple intelligence toolbox to enhance your presentations. Be sure to address each of the points listed below:

Core Academics

US History: Illustrate how 5 significant events or trends in US History impacted the life of your


Math: Explain how 2 mathematical concepts covered in Algebra 2 or Pre-Calculus have application

in your character’s life.

Science: Demonstrate the application of 2 areas of study in the field of Biology and their effects on

your character’s life.

Language: Given an “artifact” you must write a narrative story in first person from the viewpoint of

the artifact describing a significant event. Maximum of 2 pages, double spaced, 12 point

font, Times New Roman.

beyond the academics creating the community
BEYOND THE ACADEMICS:Creating the Community



  • Student Advisory Board
  • Parent Advisory Board


implementing interdisciplinary instruction in your classroom
Implementing Interdisciplinary Instruction In Your Classroom
  • Varying degrees of implementation, start small and work up to larger scale lessons
  • Ask for teacher’s input from other disciplines as a collaborative effort
creating an interdisciplinary lesson
Creating an Interdisciplinary Lesson
  • Choose an anchor
    • Civil Rights
    • topic of interest
  • Research
    • A starting point
varying techniques
Varying Techniques
  • Social Studies is most often associated and enriched by the addition of English
  • Math and Science are also easily incorporated
incorporating math and science
Incorporating Math and Science
  • Math

Albert Einstein and his contributions to the civil rights movement

  • Science

Understand three types of DNA testing that can provide data about ancestry, difference between genetic ancestry and "race."

incorporating english
Incorporating English
  • English

Discuss influential writers and journalists of the civil rights era

    • Richard Wright
    • Ralph Ellison
    • Gwendolyn Brooks

Presentation Available:

Dr. Robert Smith

Brooke Hazelwood

Whitney Clay