Interdisciplinary Learning and the Cross-cutting Themes

Yvonne McBlain, curriculum support teacher, Falkirk Children’s Services, is working with colleagues from schools across our authority to build on the Interdisciplinary Learning training delivered during session 2015-16. Colleagues who took part in this training, have been invited to become part of the existing IDL networks for primary and secondary IDL . This combined group has met twice now, to identify the kind of support which would be useful to schools and establishments.

Click here and here to look at two simple pro forma which could be adapted by secondary schools wanting to track where and when their interdisciplinary learning takes place. The first document would help a school see the skills focus of their planned IDL, and to see where it addresses the other 3 contexts for learning, and the cross cutting themes. The second is a simple record of what IDL is planned for which year group – it  shows the subject links being developed. Colleagues felt that these sheets could be useful in self-evaluating, auditing, and tracking how subjects and faculties connect and deepen their pupil experience through interdisciplinary learning. Or simply act as an overview of what is happening where with each year group across the faculties. Yvonne sent these materials out to the IDL network so that colleagues could share and develop these if required.

Top of the list of next steps was an exploration of how the cross cutting themes could help us identify valuable IDL practice. We identified the cross-cutting themes as useful in building progression into interdisciplinary learning, so that the IDL practice which is developing in schools doesn’t turn into little isolated islands which don’t connect to the wider curriculum. The cross cutting themes run through the whole of the curriculum – see the diagrams throughout this post.

As their name suggests, they are built into the experiences and outcomes, and are a mandatory part of our pupils’ learning entitlement. The themes are built into the GTCS Standards, and into HGIOS 4 and HGIOELCC. Click here to see Yvonne’s collation of how IDL & the cross cutting themes are illustrated in HGIOS 4. We knew that most practitioners already addressed these themes, but wanted to raise awareness that these could also be valuable contexts for interdisciplinary learning which many teachers would already be using. The themes are:

  1. Learning for Sustainability – click here to look at the LfS Wordle which shows the many elements of this theme
  2. Creativity – there are specific creativity skills which you can learn more about by clicking here
  3. Enterprise /World of Work – click here to read how the Scottish Government supports enterprising learning

The group met on 15th March to look at ways to bundle the experiences and outcomes to create interdisciplinary learning which also addressed one of the cross-cutting themes. In preparation for this meeting, Yvonne worked her way through all of the experiences and outcomes, highlighting Learning for Sustainability E & Os in green, Creativity in yellow, and Enterprise/World of Work in blue. She felt this was a useful way to demonstrate that this isn’t additional work for staff, and to show the lines of development and progression across each level.

Click here to see Yvonne’s allocation of relevant experiences and outcomes to each of the themes – she was well aware that this needed to be looked at, and adjusted through collaborative discussion and consideration by primary teachers and secondary subject specialists. The IDL group discussed these and altered them where required but it would still benefit from further input from colleagues in schools. We realised that this document could be a useful self-evaluation/planning tool in itself, and Yvonne will upload it to the cross-cutting themes One Note document she will now build in Glow.

The IDL group then began to link and bundle the experiences and outcomes which addressed the cross-cutting themes. Click here to see the second level enterprise/sustainability bundle begun by Sarah Russell, Nethermains PS, and Kerry Brown, acting principal teacher at Sacred Heart RC PS. We were all focused on searching for groups of experiences and outcomes which would help us identify opportunities for progressive IDL – bundles which worked in every level of Curriculum for Excellence. Our thinking is that this bank of “bundles” can act as a starting point for practitioners wanting to plan robust and progressive IDL, and simultaneously progress learning in one or more of the cross cutting themes. Everyone left the meeting primed to look out for existing practice in the cross-cutting themes to help us exemplify how this context for interdisciplinary learning could look in our classrooms. We will re-group in early May to work out how to share what we have found, and to create an action plan for the ongoing development of interdisciplinary learning, and the cross-cutting themes.

Please leave any comments or ideas you have below, or contact if you have classroom practice which would help us raise awareness and develop either interdisciplinary learning and/or any of the cross cutting themes.

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