Pros and Cons of Cross-Curricular Teaching
Cross-Curricular teaching is the essence of collaboration for students’ learning—a fundamental way to teach concepts in the context of multiple subjects at once. It requires the math teacher to align with the literature teacher, who aligns with the art teacher. Cross-Curricular teaching is a fresh perspective for teaching and for learning.
Connecting even two subjects together with a similar lesson focus can deepen the learning for students who often ask “When will I ever need this?” The purpose is to expand learning at all levels.
This approach seeks to apply the math knowledge to the science concept that is represented by the art project, English paper or history project. It is moving away from a prescribed curriculum to a collaborative one in which teachers work together to design a multi-layered lesson that incorporates more than one discipline.
The Cross-Curricular lesson can span an entire semester or a whole year, culminating in a final project or performance. Since it makes connections among disciplines, this approach fosters critical thinking and collaboration from students, as well.
Students are expected to apply their learning, which in turn leads to excitement about further understanding and discoveries. They should be able to reflect on concepts and ideas and interact with each other as they dig deeper into the focus of the lessons.
Cross-Curricular learning prepares the way for students to learn and work together, which is more reflective of real life. Very few people do their jobs without collaborating with co-workers, so this type of instruction is a training ground for future interactions.
Moving away from merely memorizing facts, Cross Curricular learning encourages students to make their own connections and draw their own conclusions based on the material.
The primary drawback as expressed by teachers is a lack of time for collaboration. Frequently, teachers are already over-extended in lesson planning, grading and preparing for teaching, so some restructuring of planning time would be necessary.
A second drawback is how to assess mastery of the concept(s). Would it be project-based, written, oral? Constructing the assessment method takes time to ensure all of the disciplines are represented.
A third drawback is that it has the potential to start off with a bang and fade over time if not well-planned and directed. Keeping students’ attention over time can be challenging.
A study done in England followed eight teachers who taught a group of 48 students in a cross-curricular way for a specified concept. The findings revealed that once the students learned how to work together to complete the assigned tasks, the lower attaining students had the most confidence boost and felt the most gratification in completion. Some of the students began to understand that thinking skills could be translated into any subject.
Cross-Curricular teaching certainly has the potential to change the way students learn and process information in a dramatic way. However, it seems that there needs to be a sizable shift in the way the school day is structured and in how teachers plan their lessons.