This year our school has asked it’s teachers to pick up the challenge of creating integrated programmes for NCEA Level 1. When we got the news I was so excited! To me integrated learning is the way of the future, they path that education should be taking.
A week ago I finally found out that I am to team up with another Learning Leader (name for teacher at our school) and create a Level 1 programme that covers three disciplines to be completed over 12 weeks. But before this I needed to pitch my ideas to a group of staff who have been timetabled to work in our Year 11 integrated area.
So many ideas running through my head. So many possibilities. How do you choose just one? But in the end it wasn’t too difficult. My passion at the moment is the environment, specifically making our practices sustainable and reducing the amount of pollution we create. (My flatmates go crazy because I’m always harping on about the amount of plastic bags and bottles they use.) However, I am also extremely passionate about learners taking action. It is fine for me to teach them about an issue but it is what they do with that knowledge that is important to me. So there I was, one week ago, with this idea of Sustainability and Social Action. Easy right?
It was not as easy as I had initially thought it was going to be. My original proposal was good but I had failed to look at the Achievement Standards or the Clarifications in detail. I had a plan in my head but one that would not work in practice. On top of that I needed to find a Learning Leader (LL) who was interested in what I was and wanted to teach with me.
Finding a buddy:
Everyone had been told to pitch their own ideas, and that is exactly what we did. Some had already teamed up with other LLs and pitched their ideas together but to me this defeated the purpose of the pitch and the process. In my eyes I saw the pitch as a way to express our ideas and passions and then to create connections with other LLs where we could see connections being made.
I eventually teamed up with Vicky who specialises in English but is also capable of doing Media Studies and some Geography. She expressed an interest in the taking action as long as we found a way for English to be included in the programme.
Hashing it all out:
We were tasked to come up with a proposal of our integrated programme for the Senior Leadership Team (SLT). The proposal needed to include all the different Learning Areas and Assessments involved, as well as our schools learning principles, any contexts and content we were planning to include, and formative assessment opportunities.
During this stage I went and had conversations with different LLs from different Learning Areas. I needed to consult with Media, and Health. Vicky consulted with Science and Geography. I also needed to find which of the Social Science standards would actually fit.
This is what I looked like by the end of checking all the Assessment Standards and Clarifications and having conversations with the different LLs. My trimester long course had gone through so many changes!! Health needed to be more personalised and look at an aspect in their direct community, it could not be a on a national or global level. The Science concepts were so difficult that reading through them just confused my poor brain. The Social Studies standards that I wanted to include could not focus on sustainability unless it directly affected human rights i.e. access to clean water (even though I think sustainability is a human rights issue). The Media Studies standards needed to be assessed together and could not be separated. My buddy wanted to include more English (totally fair enough since this is her area of expertise). So here I sat, with only an awesome idea on taking action to do with sustainability and entering The Outlook for Someday film challenge but no standards that fit!
It took a lot of rejigging, many frustrated hours, a number of conversations with Vicky, meetings with SLT, messages on the Senior Social Studies Teachers Facebook page, the sharing of resources by other teachers, and lots of planning and then re-planning to come up with a final proposal.
I learnt that although NCEA is flexible (and awesome!) it also has it’s limitations. Standards have limitations. For example Health AS91097 must focus on well-being within their community, Social Studies AS91042 must focus on human rights and social justice. The ways that these aspects are explained in the Assessment Standards and Clarifications made these standards unusable in my integrated context.