Archive for the ‘Curriculum’ Category

What Is Integrated Curriculum?

Saturday, March 7th, 2015

Innovative educators concerned with improving student achievement are seeking ways to create rigorous, relevant, and engaging curriculum. They are asking questions such as these:

  • Can making wind and rain machines improve the reading comprehension and writing scores of elementary students on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test?
  • Do students really learn math by learning to clog dance?
  • When students spend after-school time participating in a microsociety that reflects the roles of real life, will their test scores in math and reading improve?

In Florida, Okhee Lee, an education professor at the University of Miami, engages elementary students in making little wind and rain machines. Students focus on the “big ideas” such as evaporation, condensation, and thermal energy. The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) does not test science; however, Lee’s students have shown more than 100 percent gains in comprehension and writing on the FCAT. Their success in language is particularly impressive because many of the students come from different ethnic backgrounds, and many of them speak English as their second language. Lee claims that when she teaches science concepts she also teaches students to think and write in the structured, coherent ways required on standardized tests (Barry, 2001).

In public schools in Asheville and Buncombe, North Carolina, students learn math skills through clog dancing and explore the solar system through modern dance. In these schools, teachers deliver the core curriculum through the arts. This approach is based on the research report Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning (Fiske, 1999). This report offers clear evidence that sustained involvement in particular art forms—music and theater—is highly correlated with success in mathematics and reading. Furthermore, at-risk students do particularly well both academically and personally in these types of programs (Blake, 2001).

Students participate in a microsociety in an after-school program at Amistad Academy in New Haven, Connecticut. This program prepares middle school students from a poor minority population for colleges, careers, and citizenship. They attend traditional classes during the regular school day, and after school for a few hours a week, they belong to a microscociety—holding jobs, paying taxes, running businesses, making laws, and punishing lawbreakers. The purpose of the program is to make school more relevant and fun while building transferable life skills. The school raised its average test scores two and a half levels in math and one and a half levels in reading. In 1998, a study of 15 microsociety schools in six states found that at two-thirds of the schools, students posted gains on standardized reading and math tests that were as much as 21 percent greater than those of their peers (Wilgoren, 2001).

In these three examples, student achievement is a primary focus. Teachers maintain accountability while designing learning experiences that are relevant to student interests. Interestingly, two of the schools serve populations of diverse students. In each case, teachers have developed intriguing curriculum that pushes beyond the boundaries of traditional disciplines to produce positive results. Comprehension, for example, is comprehension, whether taught in a language class or a science class. When students are engaged in learning, whether they are taking part in the arts or role playing in a microsociety, they do well in seemingly unconnected academic arenas. These are only a few of the countless examples of students involved in interdisciplinary studies at all grade levels. The examples highlight the potential of integrated curriculum to act as a bridge to increased student achievement and engaging, relevant curriculum.

Defining Integrated Curriculum.

What exactly is integrated curriculum? In its simplest conception, it is about making connections. What kind of connections? Across disciplines? To real life? Are the connections skill-based or knowledge-based?

Defining integrated curriculum has been a topic of discussion since the turn of the 20th century. Over the last hundred years, theorists offered three basic categories for interdisciplinary work; they defined the categories similarly, although the categories often had different names. Integration seemed to be a matter of degree and method. For example, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) offered the following definitions in 1935:

Correlation may be as slight as casual attention to related materials in other subject areas . . . a bit more intense when teachers plan it to make the materials of one subject interpret the problems or topics of another.

Fusion designates the combination of two subjects, usually under the same instructor or instructors.

Integration: the unification of all subjects and experiences.

We joined this conversation in the early ’90s. At the time, we were unaware of the long history of educators with similar concerns. In our separate locations, we defined three approaches to integration—multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary. Our definitions of these categories emerged from our personal experiences in the field. We noticed that people seemed to approach integrating curriculum from three fundamentally different starting points. In looking back, we see that our definitions closely aligned with the definitions proposed by other educators over the decades. The three categories offer a starting point for understanding different approaches to integration.

Multidisciplinary Integration.

Multidisciplinary approaches focus primarily on the disciplines. Teachers who use this approach organize standards from the disciplines around a theme. Figure 1.1 shows the relationship of different subjects to each other and to a common theme. There are many different ways to create multidisciplinary curriculum, and they tend to differ in the level of intensity of the integration effort. The following descriptions outline different approaches to the multidisciplinary perspective.

Figure 1.1. The Multidisciplinary Approach

Intradisciplinary Approach. When teachers integrate the subdisciplines within a subject area, they are using an intradisciplinary approach. Integrating reading, writing, and oral communication in language arts is a common example. Teachers often integrate history, geography, economics, and government in an intradisciplinary social studies program. Integrated science integrates the perspectives of subdisciplines such as biology, chemistry, physics, and earth/space science. This type of intradisciplinary program is offered for middle school by the University of Alabama’s Center for Communication and Educational Technology. Through this integration, teachers expect students to understand the connections between the different subdisciplines and their relationship to the real world. The program reports a positive impact on achievement for students who participate. (See for more information.)

Fusion. In this multidisciplinary approach, teachers fuse skills, knowledge, or even attitudes into the regular school curriculum. In some schools, for example, students learn respect for the environment in every subject area. At Mount Rainier Elementary in Washington State, teachers incorporate the theme of peace into every thread of the school’s curriculum (Thomas-Lester, 2001). Students begin each week promising to be peaceful, respectful, and responsible. They follow a list of responsibilities and learn about peace in their classes. In reading, for example, students analyze positive characteristics of people in stories; in social studies, they learn the importance of cultures working together. The school records the number of days without a fight as “peace days”; teachers write the accumulated number of peace days on the blackboard in every classroom. Teachers wear peace signs, and students greet each other with the peace sign.

by Susan M. Drake and Rebecca C. Burns.

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Empathy, key component in moral studies

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

Helping hands: Two boys clean up a classroom with their teachers after floods hit their school. It is this trait - their willingness to help - that reinforces the importance of good values. - File Photo

Helping hands: Two boys clean up a classroom with their teachers after floods hit their school. It is this trait – their willingness to help – that reinforces the importance of good values. – File Photo

While schools aim for academic excellence, there is also a need to inculcate in students the values of patience and compassion.

MORAL Education has come a long way in Malaysia. Since Malaysia attained independence, much has been said about the subject.

In fact, recently, Moral Education came under scrutiny where many ‘higher order thinking skills’ (HOTS) questions were posed to students when they sat for their PT3 Moral Education paper. Candidates were not fully prepared for the HOTS questions.

There have been discussions and debates about the purpose of having Moral Education in our curriculum.

Many educationists, have said that Moral Education cannot be taught solely for examination purposes.

Moral Education or otherwise known as Values Education, Character Education, Ethics Education or Civics and Citizenship Education in other developed and developing countries, can be taught in an interesting and thought-provoking manner to develop the mindset of the students. However, are we focusing on just this (mindset) all the time?

Moral Education should also touch on the affective side that the educators seldom focus on. We may not be aware that moral emotions are crucial for one’s development and empathy is one major component.

There are various definitions of empathy. Various theorists and psychologists have suggested different definitions for empathy like Feshbach, who asserted that empathy has both cognitive and affective components.

An expert in Emotion, Nancy Eisenberg viewed empathy “as an affective response that stress from the apprehension or comprehension of another’s emotional state or condition and is similar to what the other person is feeling or would be expected to feel in the given situation”.

Motivating factor

Empathy as a component plays an important role in moral development as well as being a motivator for prosocial behaviour. Researchers have stated that people who deeply care for others and experience their empotions, are motivated to help other people.

According to famous theorists and psychologists, it is Hoffman’s theory of empathy that has the most extensive coverage on the development of the topic and care in humans.

He defined empathy as “an affective response more appropriate to another’s situation than one’s own”.


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Civic And Citizenship Education To Be Enhanced

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 17 (Bernama) – The curriculum for Islamic Education, Moral Education and History will be improved from 2017 to enhance Civic and Citizenship Education (PSK).

Deputy Minister of Education Datuk Mary Yap Kain Ching said PSK, a core subject in secondary schools, will not be taught as a subject under the Malaysian Education Development Plan 2013-2025.

“PSK aims to create awareness among students about their roles, rights and responsibilities to create citizens who are united,” she said replying to a question in the Dewan Rakyat Monday.


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Agriculture to become curriculum activities in secondary school

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

NILAI: Integrated science can become one of the curriculum activities in secondary schools nationwide, said Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

He said the minister encourage agriculture in schools as it was previously not being given any attention.

“The involvement of youths in agriculture is somewhat wanting with only 15 percent involved in the sector. So we want to nurture the interest among youths through students at schools,” he told reporters after the ‘Malam Ramah Mesra’ function, organised by Cempaka International Ladies College (CILC), Bandar Enstek near here last night.

He said the matter would be discussed with Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also Education Minister so that agriculture could be made a curriculum in schools.

“We will start at secondary schools and we expect it will be launched next year,” he said, adding that CILC which is equipped with suitable land for agriculture and fish ponds would be used as the pilot project initially.


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Curriculum Definition

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Defining Curriculum

Curriculum refers to the means and materials with which students will interact for the purpose of achieving identified educational outcomes. Arising in medieval Europe was the trivium, an educational curriculum based upon the study of grammar, rhetoric, and logic. The later quadrivium (referring to four subjects rather than three as represented by the trivium) emphasized the study of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. These seven liberal arts should sound a lot like what you experienced during your formal education.

The emphasis on single subjects persists even today. Very likely you moved from classroom to classroom, particularly throughout your secondary education, studying a different subject with each teacher. Yet there was more to your education. Perhaps you participated in athletics, or the band, or clubs, or student government, or made the choice not to participate in any extracurricular activities. All of these (including the option not to participate) are part of what we might call the contemporary curriculum. But there is more.

Some educators would say that the curriculum consists of all the planned experiences that the school offers as part of its educational responsibility. Then there are those who contend that the curriculum includes not only the planned, but also the unplanned experiences as well. For example, incidents of violence that have occurred at a number of schools across the nation are hardly a planned component of the curriculum. However, the manner in which violence is addressed before, during, and after the actual event sends a very definite message about how people in our culture interact and how the laws of our nation are applied.

Another perspective suggests that curriculum involves organized rather than planned experiences because any event must flow of its own accord, the outcome not being certain beforehand. For instance, competitions, whether academic or athletic, can be organized, but the outcomes will depend on a myriad of factors that cannot be planned.

Which brings us to the notion of emphasizing outcomes versus experiences. This shift to the notion of outcomes is very much in keeping with the current movement toward accountability in the public schools, that is, the perspective that there are indeed specific things that the schools are supposed to accomplish with children. District personnel, school administrators, and you as one of many teachers are to be held accountable by the public/taxpayers for ensuring that those objectives are met.

Curriculum, it turns out, is indeed much more than the idea of specific subjects as represented by the trivium or the quadrivium. And, as we will see in the next section, it can be characterized not only by what it does include but also by what it intentionally excludes.

by Edward S. Ebert II, Christine Ebert, Michael L. Bentley.

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Adenan Wants Environment Concern To Be Included In Curriculum

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

KUCHING:  Environment care and concern should be included in the education curriculum as one of the aspects that need to be looked upon to tackle such issues, said Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem.

He said there was a need to urgently review the curriculum so that the growth of environmental-economic based strategies would be apt with the changing times.

“We have to move from the traditional and static structure of our environment policy and guidelines to accommodate changes that will bring in more dynamism to the economic and environmental growth,” he said at the launch of the International Federation of Landscape Architects Asia-Pacific Region (IFLA-APR) Conference here today.

His text of speech was read by State Local Government and Community Development Minister, Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh.

Adenan said the development in economy and technology, which had resulted in the emergence of new knowledge and working approaches, had also raised the importance of environment protection.


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More art schools for budding talents

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

JOHOR BARU: Budding artistes can look forward to blooming into great talents, with more arts schools in the works over the next few years.

One school is already up and running here while two more, in Kuala Lumpur and Kuching, are expected to open their doors by 2016.

Education Ministry secretary-general Datuk Dr Madinah Mohamad said the ministry planned to increase the number of arts schools as an alternative to schools providing formal education and to encourage youngsters to express themselves through art.

“Arts schools have become the preferred choice of many students, with an increasing number of applications each year.

“However, entering an arts school is not easy as it has stringent conditions. Students have to go through an interview, audition and pass a test before they are accepted,” she told reporters after a ceremony to hand over the keys to the new RM61mil Sekolah Seni Johor Baru building at Bandar Seri Alam here yesterday. He said there were 350 students at the school.

Dr Madinah said that with the Malaysia Education Blueprint (MEB), the Government aims to make the country’s education system one of the best in the world by 2025.

by Mohd Farhaan Shah.

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Financial education to be introduced in school soon

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR: Financial education will be incorporated into the school curriculum in stages from next year.

Bank Negara assistant governor Abu Hassan Alshari Yahaya said the central bank, in a collaboration with the Education Ministry, would introduce it to Year 3 students next year and secondary school students from 2017.

“Part of the financial education elements have been introduced this year in Bahasa Malaysia and Maths subjects, ahead of the targeted date,” he said during the launch of the Financial Literacy Month yesterday.

Abu Hassan said financial education needed to be inculcated continuously from a young age to adulthood to help instill discipline and increase their financial management skills.

He said the curriculum would cover money management, planning, savings and investments, credit and debt management and insurance.

Abu Hassan said that parents should not rely only on the school curriculum for their children to be prudent with their finances as they should share the responsibility.

Between January and August, the number of consumers going to Bank Negara for financial advice and information went up from 264,306 to 290,696, a 10% increase, compared to the same period last year, he said.

Total complaints reduced from 5,824 cases to 5,661, he added.

“This means that consumers are now taking positive steps to know and understand their rights and responsibilities on financial products and services,” he said.

Since 2008, Bank Negara had received 1.4 million enquiries and complaints from individuals and entrepreneurs at an average of 1,700 a day.

by  Loh Foon Fong,

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Self-esteem of a nation

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

INNER STRENGTH: The bedrocks of national unity are founded in homes and schools.

IN 1987, the National Union of the Teaching Profession submitted the New Secondary School Curriculum Memoranda to the Education Ministry. The overarching theme of the memorandum is: Towards a balanced, flexible curriculum which builds self-esteem among students.

Millions of students have gone through the curriculum. However, what of the self-esteem, self-concept, self-confidence and character-building?

Twenty-five years later, studies and anecdotal reports, particularly, from employers, observed that typically, students lack skills in communication, teamwork, leadership, language, interpersonal and other soft skills.

Among students who do not do well in interviews, the lack of self-confidence and self-esteem is observed.

It is not acceptable to have a school system where education becomes subversive and its graduates do not have high self-esteem because of detractors in the system and in the wider culture. It is the sacred responsibility of the education system to ensure that the self-esteem of every learner is developed.

The education system has many significant ideas but there seems to be more ideas than champions. Champions connected to power groups and individuals of a particular era cease to be champions when the individuals or groups retire or move to some other power domains. Policy and practice amnesia exist because of discontinuous commitments and leadership.

It is necessary and urgent to cultivate leaders who are mission-driven rather than those driven merely for personal interests or for approval of the patrons of the times.

Systems that are forgetful lose the strength of synergy and energy that comes from historical foundations.

A failed nation is a nation where social capital is low and the people do not trust themselves, each other, or the leaders.

by Datuk Dr Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid .

Making the Most of Fieldwork Learning Experiences

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Fieldwork refers to any component of the curriculum that involves leaving the classroom and learning through firsthand experience. Most instructors incorporate fieldwork to help students understand theory, develop skills, integrate knowledge, build tacit knowledge, develop meaning in places, and work with peers and instructors in alternate settings.

Despite our best intentions, fieldwork experiences can fail miserably for many reasons. For example, an unexpected traffic jam can reduce time at a study site, a sudden rainstorm can send everyone running for cover, or a guest naturalist can fail to show up at the appointed time and place. Conditions in the field are often unpredictable and can affect learning outcomes. Even so, there are practices that do improve fieldwork experiences.

First, fieldwork assignments should have clear and integrated goals. I recommend choosing a few key objectives and sticking to them. Expecting a field experience to accomplish too many objectives can dilute the experience and leave students frustrated. We wrongly assume that students will learn simply by engaging in field experiences; these experiences need to be an integrated part of the larger curriculum. I recently heard this loud and clear from students doing an individualized community-service learning assignment in a large introductory environmental studies course. They decried the lack of time taken in the course to analyze and integrate their field experiences.

Second, successful fieldwork requires preparation by students and instructors alike. Successful fieldwork builds on and extends competencies gained in earlier in-class or field experiences. For that reason, students need to understand and appreciate the underlying theory, past studies, and methods related to their upcoming trip. This context enhances learning, deepens insight, strengthens critical thinking, and increases adaptability. Instructors prepare students to make efficient use of their time during the field exercise by providing clear instructions and expectations for assessment. Instructors also need to prepare their equipment, anticipating all manner of safety and logistical contingencies as well as the range of site conditions (such as weather) that will affect fieldwork. Instructors must also balance the need for structure, comfort, and familiarity (e.g., traditional lab experiences) with the need for excitement and novel experiences (e.g., new environments).

Third, instructors should be flexible so they can take advantage of spontaneous opportunities that may arise. For example, if a flock of swans fly, students may be frustrated if they can’t stop to take a look because they are supposed to be staring at the ground, madly trying to measure vegetation characteristics for a biology lab. If an instructor is flexible, unexpected events can contribute directly to, or provide context for, the objectives of the field exercise.

Fourth, students and instructors should reflect on all aspects of their field experiences. Reflection increases learning because it provides an opportunity to examine the meaning and significance of experiences, sightings, data, or encounters. This reflection might take the form of a required journal, a group “debrief,” or a sharing circle at the end of an afternoon trip. Reflection immediately after an experience is most productive and relevant. Both the instructor and the students might want to create a list of “recommendations” that could improve an activity for future students.

Fifth, choosing a location for a field experience is important.
On one hand, local choices are relatively inexpensive, are relevant to students, and give them an opportunity to provide a finished product for community use.

by Glen T. Hyenegaard, PhD.

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