Curriculum Integration in New Zealand.
In this essay I will discuss current thinking of best teaching and learning practice for learners in the 21st century. I will discuss Beane's (1997) definition of curriculum integration and other definitions of curriculum integration (CI). I will then discuss the common conception of CI as a variety of thematic curriculum. I will include discussion about my observation of a classroom using and integrated curriculum approach. .
The basic dictionary definition of the word integration is "the act or process of making whole or entire. Nolan & Harwood (date unknown) suggest that Curriculum integration is the process of experiencing and understanding connections and, because of this, seeing things whole. The difference between the thematic approach and CI is the dialogical negotiation that takes place between the teacher and learner. Thematic approach teachers will plan units of work around a particular "theme" or topic. These topics are frequently high interest topics which children enjoy learning about but which have little relevance or connection to the child's word or with previous learning. .
Using the thematic approach teachers tend to build up a collection of high interest subjects, for example dinosaurs or ancient Egypt, then trot them out each year for study by their current class. Not only is this stagnated learning but it is disconnected to the child's own world. In an integrated curriculum the teacher will through discussion and explore topical issues raised by the children. I observed a skilled CI teacher begin such a unit of study with year 3 children. The teacher (K) began with a class discussion on the school wide theme of "It's Alive". She guided them to discuss what they knew about living things. The class created a brainstorm of "What is alive?" .
K guided them to animals they might see in their backyard and an animated discussion followed as children shared stories about backyard beasties.