This is the week that we publish the results of our labour in transitioning our traditional high school away from isolated subject silos. We are adding our new integrated structure to our website and asking students to select preferences within it.
Before publishing, we did some testing of the documentation with parents and prospective students and feedback was positive. There was some confusion which we hopefully have cleared up around how things work but the premise of switching to bigger picture, integrated learning makes sense to those who have read it so far.
Although we have managed to compile the documents that outline the approach and the timetable for next year, there is still much work to be done to get everything ready and teachers prepared to run what is a very new school day.
Our Grade 6 and 7 students (Years 7 & 8 in NZ) have been experiencing increasing amounts of integrated learning for a number of years now but would normally start traditional silo subjects in grade 8 (Year 9 in NZ). The big change will be experienced by our 600 grade 8 and 9 students (Years 9 & 10 in NZ) next year who will no longer enter numerous isolated subjects silos during the day.
Our 16 teams of teachers have Developed teacher outlines, 18 week Teaching guides, and student outlines for Big picture topics that integrate three traditional subjects together, eight topics for grade 8 and eight for grade 9.
Although we have managed much this year and things look pretty good on paper, there is still anxiety amongst the staff about the new introductions of learning mentoring and the limited amount of full and open student agency we have added to our timetable.
Only one in four of our teachers will be required to mentor the overall learning of a small group of students, but this still doesn’t mean it’s a very new idea in a traditional high school setting. If truth be told, nearly every high school in the world does not dedicate much time or effort to the overall development of a child. Teachers, like politicians are used to only promoting the policies of their own (subject) party, at the expense of the other “parties”. Nobody in the school is offered the opportunity to spend genuine time with an individual on exactly how much learning is taking place, regardless of the amount of teaching on the timetable.
Even in 2019, high school teachers have been trained to deliver the content and promote the policies of their subject and the focus has been on teaching more than learning. It has been said a thousand times before but just because you teach something doesn’t necessarily mean things have been learnt and over the last two years we have found plenty of evidence of this. By dedicating significant time on the new timetable to an exploration and analysis of what is truely being learnt is both new and to some extent threatening to many high school teachers. That being said we have already a large number of volunteers to take up this learning advisory role.
Alongside the next four months of further training and planning, the final big comfort hurdle to get over is this issue of true and open student agency. Although we have only allocated four hours a week to this, it is another huge mindset shift for high school teachers to have faith that young people might generally be really productive when encouraged to do so. I will cover the results of this in my next post.
Here’s the link to our school’s booklet for Integrated learning 2020
Thanks for reading.