In the Coogle image at the head of this blog, one can see that I have identified a considerable number of interdisciplinary connections. Ironically one of the weakest interdisciplinary connections that I have noted is the bolded and capitalised community connection of “contributing schools”, more specifically Kedgley Intermediate the pre-Aorere College learning location of almost 70% of our past and present students. In light of such a student connection, it is essential that this connection is given more status and communication than has been the case in the past. Our Year 9s who have come from Kedgley Intermediate have been exposed to two years education post their primary school and pre their secondary education. Two years may not seem like a significant period in length, but as this time duration occurs at such a key time in these students’ intellectual, social and academic growth cycle, it is essential that the location and curriculum transitions and barriers for these children are minimised, if not removed altogether. In this light, the Thomas McDonagh Group (2011) highlight the need for sustainable education communities, ones where students and teachers collaborate not only across curriculum areas but also across previously isolated year levels and institutions. Such a focus ensures that learning for the students is on a continuum, matching their experiences outside the classroom and in their wider lives.
Hall and Weaver note “interdisciplinary education is as much a journey of changing mind shifts as it is about changing practice” (p. 871, 2011). I agree with this suggestion and believe as does Newell (1992), that when our contributing schools and Aorere College have greater connectivity in learning, discourse and community, there will be less academic, social and community gaps for our students to fall into. It also ensures that one hand metaphorically knows what the other hand is doing. As a result, it is hard not to envisage enhanced and more efficient use of best practice pedagogy, personnel and physical and digital resources.
There are however challenges to the sustainability and viability of this interdisciplinary education in our local educational community. One is the relevance of what we are doing to the world beyond 2017 Papatoetoe. We must work effectively within this COL but must also be mindful to simultaneously and pro-actively engage with fit-for-purpose support agencies and indeed the wider world at large (Mathison & Freeman, 1997). We must also ensure that the COL is not reliant on the drive and presence of just one or two individuals. Leadership enthusiasm and expertise at all levels of this connection are important but can be reduced in significance through clearly and often revised (and if need be, modified) systems and communication. A final challenge of interdisciplinary practice is that it cannot be all things to all people. There is simply not just enough time, resource or space to do so. Care must be taken to be highly prudent in ensuring that all voices may be heard but do not necessarily need to be acted on, if at all. For all involved, there must be a degree of concessionary thought and action to ensure that the students achieve holistically, promptly and for the great good (Ross Institute, 2015).
After all, are the students and their futures really what interdisciplinary education is all about?
Hall, P., & Weaver, L. (2001). Interdisciplinary education and teamwork: a long and winding road. Medical education, 35(9), 867-875.
Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997. Retrieved from http://www.agglbabbny.edu/cela/reports/mathisonlogic12004.pdf:
Newell, W. H. (1992). Academic disciplines and undergraduate interdisciplinary education: Lessons from the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at Miami University, Ohio. European Journal of Education, 27(3), 211-221.
Thomas McDonagh Group. ( 2011, May 13). Interdisciplinarity and Innovation Education.[video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDdNzftkIpA