How would you describe your classroom (or school)? Try writing a “classroom snapshot.”
My classroom focuses on thinking. It prioritises academic thought, but it is inclusive of people that did not choose to take my subject. It is a place of dialectic where students are expected to argue for and against that they may or may not believe in, and to come to conclusions they can aptly defend.
My classroom is a place where feedback is welcomed.
My classroom is a place where I aim to foster thinking behaviour in myself. I critique that which I believe and hold dear, and I aim to change my opinions and behaviour based upon new evidence. I take my teaching earnestly, but I strive for what Keats called a ‘negative capacity’ whereby I do not teach my values and bias more than is inevitable.
My classroom is a place that believes that reality is based upon many points of reference. Literature is consolation; literature is the door to the soul. Either way, literature interacts with the world, it is no mere mirror.
Would you consider your classroom (or school) Concept-Based? Why/ Why Not?
My school strives for a concept-based curriculum and we use the terminology in planning and with students.. I believe that this is an iterative process that requires students and teachers to attempt, to experience, to reflect, and to reiterate.
I believe that any school has holistic demands on its time. CBL has practical applications that I have been applying. Each year I intend to reflect and reiterate.
I believe that international schools justify their fees by providing an entry point for aspirational parents to join higher-level and elite universities. Therefore, schools must ensure that students are well-placed to pass the external hallmarkers of performance into those universities – they need to pass exams.
I believe that it is possible to achieve very good grades – even straight A grades – yet be distinctly uneducated.
My school utilises Understanding By Design and concept learning processes in its planning, and has students begin with essential questions and aspires to transfer regularly. My true ambition is how to integrate these with specific disciplinary approaches, and what I hope to gain from this course.
I believe that my classroom focuses on providing multiple metaphors for understanding, although these could arguably be more structured and with less reliance on organic thought as each year reitates.
What does synergistic thinking mean to you?
Synergy originates from Greek terms that mean to work together. It was applied in the late 1800s and early 1900s to social science in order to reconcile the two warring worlds of science and art, of rationality and sensibility. In this sense, it is well-used in CBL.
However, it was refined and popularised by its use in the corporate world, largely to justify cutbacks and single departments taking on other work.
In this chapter, it is used to suggest thinking that fluctuates between the lowbrow and the highbrow, prizing the necessary relationship between them, more than equally, but as a qualitatively different process.
Describe a more traditional learning experience that you have done previously with students and explain how you could adapt it to facilitate synergistic thinking.
To understand this task, I can see that the definition given here requires a combination of lower-order and higher-order thinking. Making connections between lower-order ideas across different texts, for example, may not comfortably fit this definition.
Synergistic thinking would be, I think, offering evaluative analysis and reflection onto something that would traditionally require only recall or recognition.
I think that when recounting the order of events in a plot, for example, students might evaluate genre elements, matching the order of revelation in Frankenstein for example (whereby the effects of the murders are revealed prior to information that might make us sympathise with the murder with the order of revelation in Streetcar Named Desire or Othello.
This task would be very useful for disciplinary skill, and would be something continually possible, not simply a novel pedagogy that cannot be applied regularly.
It is the need to evaluate constantly that is important.
I also think, realistically, getting students to unpick biased questions about the plot would also be evaluative and therefore conceptually-minded.
“The reality is that interdisciplinary work is only as strong as the content, concepts, and approaches of the various disciplines bought into the study. So our suggestion to curriculum developers and teachers is this– develop disciplinary ways of knowing, understanding, and doing systematically through the grades, but engage students in complex problems to solve, or issues to understand, that encourage the flexible use of disciplinary knowledge and processes in interdisciplinary studies.” (p.g 24)
How does this fit with your current understanding of interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary thinking?
I think this interdisciplinary thinking is very important. Firstly:
1) The disciplines exist for a purpose, and they contain their own maps that make accurate communication more likely by academics because people have debated and have broadly agreed on current definitions of their key terms. This is something always in flux, but academia operates more on paradigm shifts than reiteration.
2) The disciplines also have their own ways of thinking and representing reality. A huge issue in 2020, and one that has troubled us for hundreds of years, is how the different disciplines attempt to understand and present reality.
For example, some disciplines might seek to use numerical data to represent one model of reality. However, that data – which is partial by its nature as being a single model – is then used as if it represents ALL of reality, or at least its most significant elements.
This issue can also be seen in 2020 by how decisions in response to COVID are sometimes purely quantified, as if that data is the only significant representation of reality. Mass illness and death holds an emotional impact and truth that belies the numerical representation, especially if they might lead to civil unrest.
3) Realistically, for high school students, understanding situations through different models of reality is a powerful experience, especially if it grants credence to interpretivist models. However, we might always be careful to avoid pointless and ineffectual relativism whereby we state that every interpretation is held with equal significance by society. This was a real issue in UK education in the 60s (see my essay on cultural capital).
Describe an interdisciplinary unit that you have taught.
In the COVID-19 crisis, I planned and am still delivering a World Literature enhancement course for Year 13s whose exams have been cancelled.
The course itself contains ten classic texts that serve as signposts to shifts in cultural thought. We use podcasts, excerpts and images to summarise our thoughts and exploration.
The unit focuses on literary elements as a way of interpreting the world.
It also presents literature as a combination of history and philosophy, Northrop Frye’s model.
I think being clearer about different ways of understanding the world would be more in line with what I spoke about above. So we can consider source-based material vs literature material for understanding perceptions of marriage in Augustan vs Romantic movements, for example (and compare that to Nirvana vs Bon Jovi for aesthetic movements and responses from the Baroque to Grunge!).
How are disciplinary ways of knowing understanding, and doing honoured within the unit?
As stated above, I think that literary ways of understanding are honored in that we examine the form of some texts and they attempt to evoke a perception.
I think literature is interesting because it really operates as a combination of disciplines.