Thursday, May 19, 2011

Is Integration Allowed in Our Current Educational Climate?

This summer I am teaching a course on integrating English language arts and social studies.  On Tuesday night I asked my graduate students to consider whether integration truly is possible in this era of high stakes testing.  Since then I have realized that I asked  the wrong question.  Of course integration is possible.  Not only is is possible; it is one of the better approaches to instruction.  We have both craft knowledge and research to support that fact.

What I should have asked my students is whether integration is allowed.  Most of my students (27 out of 30) are in-service teachers, and many of them face limitations in how they are allowed to teach.  It seems that many curriculum planners and administrators have interpreted the accountability of mandated tests as meaning that the subjects must be taught in isolation.  It's this type of thinking that has led to the now common approach of teaching-to-the-test.

So what do we do next?  How do we convince decision makers who mandate instructional approaches that  the best way to prepare students for tests is to teach in the ways they learn best?

3 comments:

Joyce M. Futrell said...

Dr. Long,
I understood what you were really asking and I think we all realize that integration is possible. The true question is like you said how can we convince those that are not in the classroom that integration is the true best practice for teaching.

wendyhoward said...

This is a very important question that is truly relevant to my personal situation. If anyone has "the answer," please let me know. Test scores make everything else take a backseat - all of the progress made by a child doesn't seem to matter b/c you just see a test score at the end of the school year. Why do we do this to our children? We talked in our Thursday night class about the importance of letting children be children while they can. I feel that curriculum integration will encourage students to make important connections between school topics and their everyday life experiences. The next few years should be very interesting....

Marie Hasty said...

I think if you want something badly enough, you can find a way. Because my elementary class is located in a middle school building, we are expected to do things in a more "middle school manner" which is more departmentalized. This makes integrating harder. But when I wanted to integrate lessons, I found a way around the design of instructional day. I have been able to convince colleagues to work with me so I can use my class reading time to help them with science or other subject content. I can find materials to help them with content and that will help me improve my students' reading skills at the same time. We just don't run around the school calling what we are doing "integrated curriculum." We quietly plan together and then provide the best instruction we can. As long as the results are good, we don't recieve any negative feedback.