Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Cross-curricular by Nature: (eTwinning) Learning Projects in Spotlight

As one result of the new curricula in Finland the goal of learning and a school culture is to enhance cooperation and to apply more diverse perspectives on contents that are being taught. When phenomena are studied in their real life context, complex concepts and formulas feel real, and even the most complicated problems/ideas become understandable and relevant. By nature, authentic learning leads to exploring things as part of the world, using a multidisciplinary approach and looking at thing from the vantage points of different school subjects.

Contrary to common belief, cross-curricular approach brings more time and space for implementing the curriculum as it provides an opportunity to learn many things at the same time. When, in typical textbook-based learning, we tend to proceed in accordance with the objectives of one subject at a time, in multidisciplinary project learning many different subjects can be studied and goals be pursued simultaneously. For example, the results of surveys designed and carried out by the students (math) can be combined with significant social phenomena (civics), ethical reflection (R.E. and philosophy), as well as linguistic expression, interaction and presentation (native and foreign languages, art, ICT).

In practice, therefore, learning process should start with, together with the students, choosing a theme, problem or phenomenon to be studied in the project. After that you can start thinking which subjects and what kind of learning activities are to be included. When the process begins to take shape, you should take a look in the curriculum and find the corresponding objectives and contents of the school subjects, as well as the objectives of different transversal competences (e.g. ict, critical thinking, communication, team work, creativity etc.) and explore which concrete objectives this learning project supports. When you write them down in the project plan, it becomes obvious that the objectives of many different subjects are mutually supportive and are more natural to learn simultaneously than successively.

Topics Relevant for Global Citizenship Education

One example of a very topical issue and a possible theme for project learning is gender equality. In Finland, all schools are required to have an updated equality plan, which entails studying gender equality related themes, exploring and revealing attitudes and stereotypes as well as enhancing equality-based school culture. Gender equality is a very topical theme also from European and global perspectives, as recent studies have shown that differences between the sexes have, somewhat alarmingly, begun to increase again.

Last fall, I designed and built a multidisciplinary education project plan Girls are Playing Home, Boys Are Driving Cars? to support education for gender equality. It was planned, in particular, to be used in eTwinning projects. However, the project kit can be applied to different age groups and implemented with or without European partners. The learning project can be carried out in a couple of weeks or during a longer period of time. Instead of carrying out all the different activities, you can also choose just some of them. You can find the project plan here: Girls play with dolls, boys play with cars?.

Another interesting integrative theme in relation to the new Finnish curriculum is language education in the sense of multilingualism, language awareness and the language dimension in all subjects and areas of knowledge. This aspect is being raised in Girls are Playing Home, Boys Are Driving Cars? project plan (gendered words), but even more strongly in Many Stories of the World project kit. In it, the objective is to learn to see the world from different perspectives and critically examine our own interpretations, which are culturally determined and shaped by our own language(s). During the project, different activities are carried out to illustrate how the spectrum of interpretations of the world are produced by languages and cultures expressed in the shared stories of the surrounding society. The Danger of a Single Story video has a particularly eye-opening effect. It elucidates how strong and biased interpretation one single story can give and how unaware we can be of the bias. You can find the project plan here: Many Stories of the World 

Multidisciplinary approach opens a new world for the teacher as well. When it is combined with the multi-cultural dimension developed in international co-operation, transversal competences and expertise develop by leaps and bounds: thinking skills, interpersonal and intercultural skills, multi-literacy, ICT skills and feeling of inclusion and engagement. Our new curricula in Finland open paths into the future and meaningful learning.

Read more about language awareness:
Pluralistic Approaches to Languages and Cultures (by European Centre of Modern languahes) - key concepts
Language Grid by Grade (CARAP/FREPA) - development of language awareness

1 comment:

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