My Interdisciplinary Connection Map

“Interdisciplinary:  a knowledge view and curriculum approach that consciously applies methodology and language from more than one discipline to examine a central theme, topic, issue, problem, or work.”Heidi Hayes Jacobs      Interdisciplinary Curriculum Design and Implementation (1989)

Andrews 1990 states that “when different professionals, possessing unique knowledge, skills, organisational perspectives, and personal attributes, engage in coordinated problem solving for a common purpose” (cited in Berg-Weger &. Schneider, 1998) interdisciplinary connections are made.

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My connections within my school

The kind of learning we want our students to experience is that of authentic, active inquiry, that is connected and student-centred.  Students enjoy challenges and collaboratively are able to connect all the requirements together for a topic, theme or project.  I believe with guidance that students are able to demonstrate problem solving skills and implement their own ideas in solving issues.


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Connections within our departments

Here are some examples of connected learning which happens in our school.

Team-Teaching (aka co-teaching, collaborative teaching, parallel teaching, teaming).  Students need to develop social skills in being able to work together with a range of their peers, retaining knowledge and analysing information in order to make sound judgements based on their analysis.  These are essential skills students need as they move into Year 9 studies in 2018.  Students worked on a theme titled:  NZ history – Treasure our Heritage.  The topic which the students were to analyse was that of ‘how to read cladograms’.  This process involved 3 classes of year 8 students.  Class 1 developed a lesson, with a unit plan with success criteria.  Once in place, students taught this topic to another class of year 8 students.  These students also taught a third group of year 8 students during another session. It proved very successful.

The station teaching group format was used for the group work based on ‘treasure our heritage’

Two of the classes continued to work together on the given theme and were divided into four groups – Group 1:  Guided reading, Group 2 Disappearing Cloze, Group 3 Videos & questions, Group 4 Making a Korowai*.  Students worked at each station for 20 minutes.  *For the Korowai – I  was brought in to talk about the preparation and construction of

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 10.28.29 AMScreen Shot 2017-10-23 at 10.29.53 AMthe cloak, introduced some history, talked about the materials with student input, and even though the students were making the cloak from card, they were able to relate their construction to the real thing. An actual Korowai was brought in for students to use as their inspiration.  The students modelled their completed Korowai as a finale to the unit.

When New Zealand was looking at the flag change, a social studies unit was developed that included flag history, flags that had changed in the past (eg Canada), links to civics, and in textiles, the development of what students wanted as a new flag, which was constructed as a pillow cover.  They were able to use skills of planning, collaboration, modelling, testing, learning about the sewing machine, layering and so much more.
IMG_1884It was an enjoyable unit which took a term of 10 weeks to complete.  The school then used the flags during the cultural week in the school.

According to research from Boyer and Bishop (2004, p.1.) they found that interdisciplinary ‘teaming’ not only had a positive effect on students learning, but also inhibited personal growth.  Students learned tolerance for their peers as well as leadership and collaboration skills.

Another example is at Year 13 where students in Food Technology and Business work on a project as part of their business plan and prototype product development.  They use time in Business to set up their business, advertising, work on finances and logistics, the launch, while in Food Technology, students are unpacking the given brief (from the business plan) to develop a final brief from which prototypes and a final product will be developed and implemented at a market day or other opportunities to test the feasibility, sustainability, safety & hygiene and ethical, cultural appropriateness of their product.

We work in much the same way with Textiles Fashion & Design, and Art & Design.  The same also happens with Business and Technology Multi Materials at year 13.  The planning for each of these programmes is carried out in Term 4 the year before, ready for implementation at the start of the following year.  Not all students participate in this interdisciplinary connection, but if they choose to develop a food, fashion, multi-materials or digital outcome, it makes sense to them to take advantage of sharing learning through 2 or 3 curriculum areas while at the same time obtaining their NCEA credits, not only for the content area but for literacy and sometimes numeracy.  Students who participate will have enrolled in Business & Food Tech or Fashion & Art, so that their combination of subject choices plays a role in the interdisciplinary nature of their learning. Team work is paramount, collaboration is the key, and overall students gain confidence, a sense of ownership and an understanding of the key processes involved.  Yes, it takes time to put into place but is well worth it, if students gain knowledge and learnings from it.

Jones (2009) writes that interdisciplinary connections ‘expand student understanding and achievement between all disciplines or enhancing communication skills,’however, ‘it also has disadvantages, such as integration confusion and time-consuming curriculum preparation’.  I agree with the time consuming preparations, however once set in place, it only requires modifications leading into the next year and adapting to a new cohort of students.  Jones (2009) goes on to conclude that interdisciplinary connections, ‘inhibit many favoured skills that are sought by future colleges and employers.’


In times of change, learners shall inherent the earth while the learned are beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists. – Eric Hoffer


Boyer, Bishop, 2004. “Young Adolescent Voices: Students’ Perceptions of InterdisciplinaryTeaming,” RMLE, v.1. ef.pdf.

Jones, C.(2009). Interdisciplinary approach – Advantages, disadvantages, and the future benefits of interdisciplinary studies. ESSAI7 (26), 76-81. Retrieved from

Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997. Retrieved from,

L. M., & Kuban, A. J. . (2015). A Conceptual Model for Interdisciplinary Collaboration. Retrieved from


2 thoughts on “My Interdisciplinary Connection Map”

  1. Prue – I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts, It is great to hear about the interdisciplinary connections your school is making. We are a Year 7 to 13 school of around 200 students. Out interdisciplinary connections are in their infancy, and are mostly opportunistic rather than planned. Do you have a modern learning environment?
    I am curious about whether all the departments work in this way, there is no mention of mathematics and science being involved. Interestingly I collaborated with the Art department in students designing a Tomokanga demonstrating transformation geometry in their maths classes and then going on to carve it in their art lessons.
    Thanks for your posts they have been well worth reading.
    Rosie Adams


    1. kia ora Rosie. Thank you for your comments. You are correct in your assumption of interdisciplinary connections not being school wide, yet, but it has begun. Mathematics at junior level (years 7-10) crosses the border to Art, Technology and Social Sciences, although it is just beginning. At the moment we have so much going on and as our leader is very much about ticking boxes, especially with ERO revisiting in 2018, the fun and collaborative stuff often is being left until later. We have so much more to do in our special character school – this and cultural responsiveness. We do have modern learning environments, the recently built RE hub is all open space with a combination of furniture and furnishings to meet the needs of students and teachers. The teachers are making an effort to adjust to such big open spaces. The year 7 and 8 areas are all MLEs, connecting two ‘classrooms’ together with a computer hub in between. Furniture is also mixed so that group tasks, team work and independent work can be inclusive. The year 7 and 8 teachers work collaboratively together – one theme, 2 or 3 classes, team teaching is popular where students teach each other, even in our readings around peer sharing it is seen as a positive way of enhancing learning for our akonga. Making these kinds of connections can be done, and I am pleased to have been part of it over the last few years, it has always been something I have believed in and enjoy being a part of. Getting other teachers on board is not so difficult especially if they see it too, as benefitting our students. Mind you some take a bit more convincing as I am sure you find as well.
      Thanks again Rosie and all the best on your onwards journey.


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