Senior managers at St Mungo’s RC High School challenged their 9 probationer teachers with the creation of an interdisciplinary learning opportunity for their 2016-17 S3 pupils.
Alison Noble, art teacher at St Mungo’s, supported these teachers with their development of ideas. They worked in 3 teams to design a project which would complement the interdisciplinary projects currently experienced by S1 and S2 pupils in the school. The school are building the formal IDL context of their curriculum to address key skills and elements of the cross-cutting themes of Creativity, Learning for Sustainability and Enterprise. They wanted this new S3 experience to target creativity, problem solving and team building skills.
Each team pitched their idea to the senior manager panel, and were further challenged by being asked to combine the best elements of all three proposals! The school also used evidence from their self-evaluation process to inform this learning experience. Pupils’ feedback from their S3 profiles highlighted a desire for more leadership skills and enterprising learning. Staff realised that these skills could easily be incorporated into the IDL experience, turning it into an effective pupil induction into S4.
On 20th and 21st June, pupils experienced the culmination of these preparations – one half of the year group taking part on each day. Pupils were given their learning intentions and success criteria for the day, and experienced a rotation of problem solving and team building activities across the curriculum. This prepared them to tackle a real life problem which linked knowledge and skills mainly in literacy and technology. They worked to a Design Brief and a deadline to make a model of what they would build on an empty piece of land close to their school. (Thank you to Richard Broadley and colleagues in Falkirk Council Planning and Development Services who gave information about vacant plots nearby.) The brief asked them to consider how they could meet the needs of local citizens and enhance lives and the environment in their community.
An element of competition was added by providing the deadline, and a panel of judges who would choose the model and idea which best fitted the criteria and constraints of the design brief. Stephen Phee, rector, Audrey Farley and Anne-Marie Jess, depute rectors, and Yvonne McBlain, curriculum support teacher acted as judges. Pupils rose to this challenge on a number of levels, and the judges naturally found it difficult to make their selection on both days. Everyone involved was extremely impressed by pupils:
- working effectively with new teams to solve problems across learning
- using social skills to negotiate and reach agreement within teams
- applying technical and design skills during construction
- applying talking, listening and presentation skills to “sell” their solution
- showing their understanding of social enterprise through their carefully considered sports centres, outdoor cinemas, etc
- showing skills, aptitudes and other positive behaviours not previously seen in the regular curriculum
- presenting their solutions clearly and with emphasis on the positive social and environmental impact of their ideas
The two groups who created the winning solutions were naturally thrilled, and the probationer teachers are currently collating the pupil evaluations of this new interdisciplinary experience. Unfortunately, Alison had started her maternity leave, so Anne-Marie and Audrey were delighted to praise the ingenuity and hard work of their probationer teachers. They obviously demonstrated their own team-work, enterprise and problem solving capabilities by orchestrating the whole project from start to finish. They applied their knowledge of their own subject and of interdisciplinary learning effectively, and employed their teaching and organisational skills creatively so that pupils gained a valuable and enjoyable educational experience.