Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Breaking the Silos that Exist in Education

“Breakthrough innovation occurs when we bring down boundaries and encourage disciplines to learn from each other” Gyan Nagpal

I was reminded this week of a story I once read about "Rip Van Winkle". Not the original story but instead a tale connected to education and our classrooms. While I don't remember and couldn't find the exact story, it followed the story of Rip Van Winkle waking and being amazed by the new world he finds until he walks into a classroom. Upon walking into a modern classroom he finally finds something familiar. The only difference he notices is the color of the chalkboards. (aka whiteboards)

"The idea aims to eliminate one of the biggest gripes of students everywhere: 'What is the point of learning this?' Now, each subject is anchored to the reason for learning it." - Kabir Chibber
This quote was part of the article that reminded me of the Rip Van Van Winkle view of modern education. The article "Goodbye, math and history: Finland wants to abandon teaching subjects at school" describes how Finland aims to replace subjects with "phenomena". The article is work a read before going on and letting me know what you think.

I initially saw this change proposed by Finland as revolutionary and not very realistic for U.S. schools. All I could think after reading the article was "Wow, what an ambitious idea. How are they ever going to make this work?"  I initially doubted that schools in the United States could make such a tremendous shift in the way we manage schools and children in the United States. I almost decided to forget about the points made in the article. I don't think I'm ruining the end of this story by telling you that my thinking quickly shifted.

My second thought was what a great idea. I'd love to see a shift from departments to a  more theme integrated learning experience for students. Where besides high school do you need to be good at 5 to 7 different isolated subjects with 5 to 7 different bosses in a single day? I'm not saying that curricular experts are bad, I just believe that we need more interdisciplinary collaboration from teachers to better support student learning.

Excited about the idea, I decided to do a bit of research about schools and classrooms that were using an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning. While not common, I quickly realized that similar initiatives exist and are growing in U.S. schools. Curricular or grade level experts in separate silos are still the norm, but many districts across the U.S. have supported and encouraged collaboration across grade levels or subject areas with growing success.

Check out this incredible example of teachers teaming up across subject areas to motivate and inspire students.

We are doing this! We just need more! I have a simple resquest:
Get up and find someone who teaches a different subject or grade level. Get started with a simple question : "What are your students learning?"

In the immortal words of Bill Nye . . . "Need I say . . . we could change the world?" 

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