7 Questions to Ask When You Start Integrating Subjects

The world around us is complex, rich and unpredictable and we need to create new learning journeys that help our children to develop the necessary attitudes and skills to successfully navigate in those conditions. Integration of subjects and moving towards a more holistic approach of teaching and learning has been something that has been an important shift in schools in recent years. Integrated teaching and learning process allow us to cross the lines between different subject-matters and emphasize unifying concepts instead.

Many schools are already to some extent implementing integrated studies. When you are looking for a good way to start here are some important questions to address.

1.   Why is it important for your school to start integrating subjects? Starting the integration process, like any other change process, should start with the question why. Why is it important for us to integrate subjects? If the why is clear enough people come along with your ideas, are motivated to contribute and ready to put an effort into the development. “Why is the point from where you should start acting and communicating”, says Simon Sinek. It means that you are very clear what is your purpose and what you believe in.

2.    Who will be in charge of this project from management and/or teachers? To implement new ways of teaching and learning, teachers need full support from the beginning to the end. Giving your full support and providing the necessary time and resources to your team is essential to have great results, effective cooperation and dedicated teachers.

3.    What kind of prior knowledge and experience do you teachers have? What are your team’s strengths and weaknesses? It is important to know your team and make sure that everybody can contribute based on their strengths. Integrated teaching and learning process require different set of skills and attitudes than teachers are maybe used to before. Communication and cooperation skills are crucial to make the process effective and have a deep and open conversation around this topic.

4.    What are the main obstacles that have held you back so far? It’s good to go over what are the issues that need to be addressed before the integration and agree how to do that? Obstacles can be very different – time, environment, lack of skills, content, learning tools, resistance from teachers and/or parents, fear of the unknown, broken communication, undue complexity etc. It is important to map possible obstacles and plan necessary measures to overcome them.

5.    Can the teaching process be flexible when it is necessary? It is important that there is the possibility to rearrange the timetable or subject topics if needed. Or go to do studies in the field and organize learning process elsewhere than in a conventional classroom.  To have a successful cooperation between teachers in leading the integrated teaching process it is crucial to provide overlapping time for working together during the school day.

6.    What documents can you read (your subject national syllabus, some strategic documents or research articles) and discuss in the team? This is a good way to start the discussion, create coherence and start to see opportunities for integration. It can start with same subject teachers discussing and writing down ideas together.

7.  What are the measures that you can take to ensure good cooperation in the team? Integrating subjects requires deep teamwork and cooperation and a lot of things can go wrong when you do not have agreements in place. This may seem too obvious at first but, it is extremely important to establish communication agreements and share your expectations before potential problems arise. A good working culture that is based on clear agreements and transparent communication is essential to have good results and fulfilling experiences from working together.

Project sySTEAM – systematic approach for implementation of STEAM education in schools (2017-1-LT01-KA201-035288) is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. The project is implemented by Virolai E.M.S.A., Kiviõli I High School, Vilnius Žemynos Gymnasium, Catalan Foundation for Research and Innovation, Sihtasutus Omanäolise Kooli Arenduskeskus and Knowledge Economy Forum.