IDL in Teacher Education, Part Two: Planning for IDL Through Dramatic Enquiry

In part one of this two-part article, I exemplified how my student primary teachers critically examine CfE guidance on IDL. In this second post, I describe how I have been exploring IDL examples and implementation with students through Mantle of the Expert (MoE) – an approach to dramatic enquiry first developed by Dorothy Heathcote in the 1980s. MoE is currently experiencing a renaissance in pockets across the UK (e.g. Woodrow First School and the Welsh Border project).  

Through MoE, pupils operate within a fictional context as an expert team, working for a client who sets the team a commission leading to a range of curriculum-related tasks. For example, pupils might work as an expert team of archaeologists commissioned by the Museum of Cairo to plan and undertake the excavation of a newly discovered tomb.

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IDL in Teacher Education, Part One: The IDL Implementation Gap

Within Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), interdisciplinary learning (IDL) is one of four contexts for learning (along with curriculum areas and subjects; ethos and life of the school; and opportunities for personal achievement). However, despite its supposed centrality within CfE, IDL has ‘not yet become a habitual learning approach in all of Scotland’s schools’ (Education Scotland 2020, p2). The first of two articles exploring the IDL implementation gap from the perspective of initial teacher education, this post exemplifies how, as a teacher educator, I support my primary teaching students in critical reflection on IDL guidance.  In the second article, I describe an approach to dramatic enquiry that is providing a framework for students to develop and implement their own IDL lessons.

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How can maths teachers engage with the climate emergency?

The maths classroom is often seen as a place of simple right and wrong answers and rote learning but it can and should be a place where children learn to think critically about complex real-life problems. What are we educating them for if it isn’t? The climate crisis provides an urgent, timely and ideal interdisciplinary context in which to set these problems.  Yet, sustainability and the climate emergency have turned out to be almost totally absent from staff professional development events, in-service day training, department meetings and general curricular delivery. Staff working groups are often not established or meet less often than monthly. Even in science course plans, climate change was only given the most cursory of mentions. Yet we are talking about an existential threat to humanity that should be top of every agenda.

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Climate Change, Environment and Sustainability: Teaching Resources

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow is a critically important intergovernmental meeting of world leaders and scientists if irreversible climate change is to be avoided. It is also part of a much greater and broader long-term challenge of mitigating wider environmental degradation world-wide that threatens the sustainability not just of humanity but of all life on Earth. These challenges and related opportunities are all deeply interdisciplinary in nature.

Learning and teaching resources on these and related topics spanning most curriculum areas and many facets of climate, environment and sustainability have been collated from various sources in our recently updated resources page.


Featured Image © UK Met Office, University of Reading #showyourstripes CC-BY-4.0

Should future learning be problem-based?

Carl Gombrich, co-founder of the new London Interdisciplinary School, calls for an interdisciplinary, networked curriculum as a step towards a more problem-based education closer to the interests of students.

It is now widely recognised that, from both theoretical and practical perspectives, the old ways of structuring knowledge in a curriculum by dividing learning into academic subjects or disciplines can look antiquated. 

From the theoretical perspective, the internet – with its hyperlinks and networked knowledge – has made us all aware of the historically conditioned or even arbitrary nature of dividing subjects into discrete units like English, Sociology and Biology. Knowledge, in the phrase popularised by Peter Morville, is intertwingled and its categorisations contingent. From the practical perspective, when 86% of graduate employers ‘do not care’ what degree students studies at universities, why do we insist that they continue to study almost exclusively in such disciplinary categories. Is there a better way? 

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Has the time to connect finally come?

Ken Muir, former GTCS Chief Exec and previously HM Chief Inspector of Education, asks: will IDL feature in the post-pandemic re-imagining of the Scottish education system?

Three recent events, which at first seemed totally unconnected, prompted me to think about where we are with interdisciplinary learning (IDL) in our schools. 

The first was my re-reading of notes I took at a pre-Covid RSE lecture given by Prof. Ian Goldin of Oxford University.  In it he said “Today is the best day of our lives because tomorrow will be much more complex.  There is no historical precedent for where we are now.”  Prof. Goldin’s words at the time struck me as being prophetic and have proved to be just that with the clear exposure of the complex connections we have at a global level shown by the devastating impact of the Covid pandemic over the past year.

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Is IDL just another Educational initiative?

The education system is notorious for its ‘new initiatives’. Understandably, we repeatedly aim to raise attainment by motivating the less than enthusiastic learner, but instead produce short-term solutions that rarely fulfil this expectation. Each decade or so we find that success in engaging the disengaged continues to elude us. Many documents are written, many person hours engaged and much funding provided to resolve this issue but frequently it is patchy, any success is short lived, and verifiable analysis of the given initiative unclear and lacking in concrete and measurable results.

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