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Integrative Education Essay

The National Council for the Social Studies (1994) provides a strong argument for integrative curriculum. Its principles of teaching and learning show that teachers may already be integrating curriculum without realizing they are doing it. Research suggests that there is a rationale for interdisciplinary units. Students have an opportunity to participate in many domains in a meaningful way. Students can personalize their learning by weaving together ideas from different curricular domains and examining an idea from different perspectives. Improved motivation is one positive outcome of integrated instruction.

When students become interested in a topic that is taught in more than one subject, they are more likely to be motivated to pay attention in these various classes and have a desire to learn (McDonald, 1994). Renate Nummela Caine and Geoffrey Caine (1991) write that the ability to see links among different areas of learning will enable students to use the knowledge and skills developed in one field to learn in another and to relate their learning to real-life situations. Students need the ability to apply existing knowledge in new situations to function effectively in an environment of continuous change.

When these children grow up and get their first jobs, they will be expected to transfer the knowledge they learned in training to many situations. Students cannot conceivably be prepared for every situation. Students who have experienced applying what they have learned to several content areas will be better prepared to transfer knowledge later in their lives. Integrative curriculum provides an enriching, intellectually stimulating experience for teachers and students. The process of developing an integrated unit allows the teacher to experiment with a new area or to gain more expertise in an area with which he or she is already familiar.

The purpose of integrated curriculum is to help students bring together in some meaningful way the many pieces of experience they encounter in and out of school (Vars, 1993). Too often in the classroom, students view each subject as an individual context area without recognizing that many of the lessons they learn are connected. There are opposing views to this and research exists that present arguments against integrated curriculum. Timothy Shanahan (1997) writes that successful integration does not occur automatically. Teachers need to think about their units and plans accordingly.

To plan properly and develop integrated curriculum, they must have adequate planning time. They need time to develop themes and ideas, gather necessary information and work collaboratively. Most teachers do not have the time within their teaching day for these requirements. Many teachers do not have planning periods that correspond with the planning period of another teacher to work collaboratively. Few teachers will give up their personal time to collaborate and form a unit. Another argument against curriculum integration is cost.

It is difficult in many situations to gauge the effectiveness of integrated units because of the cost of research. It is difficult to ensure that the planned curriculum is being taught in the classroom. Textbook programs have the advantage of making it explicit to parents and school administrators that the intended curriculum is being taught. Accountability is less certain when the curriculum is integrated (Schug, 1998). And a final argument against curriculum integration is the influence of parents. They want their children to achieve and duplicate what they learned when they were in school.

Parents have great influence in public schools and can voice opinions and get the type of learning in the classroom changed. Many parents are resistant to change and do not realize that times have changed from when they were in school. New teaching methods have been developed, some of which are unfamiliar to parents. Many parents will not give these new ideas, such as curriculum integration, a chance will oppose them from the beginning. Although there is evidence both for and against integrated units, though my research and personal experience, I have to conclude that the positive aspects far outnumber the opposing views.

Inclusion is very different from integration in that it is the concept that all children regardless of disability should attend their home school with their peers. Students with special needs are in every school and in every classroom in the United States. When beginning to teach new teachers will have to teach students who have special needs for a variety of reasons, they may come from low income families and different racial and ethnic groups or they may have exceptional abilities and disabilities.

Students with special needs are often discriminated against because of their disability, socioeconomic background, language, race or gender. There will be challenges to provide for all students an education that is appropriate to their physical, mental, social, and emotional abilities and to help them achieve their best. Challenges includes learning as much as one can bout the special needs of your students and collaborating with other professionals to identify and develop teaching strategies, programs, and curricula for them.

And most of all become a strong advocate for meeting all students’ individual needs (Smyth, 2008). Working with students with special needs teachers need to know about laws that define terms and give special rights to children with special needs and their families. They will also use terms that apply to students and to services provided for them and is very important to know these terms and use them properly. For example, children with disabilities replace the term handicapped children.

Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, was passed in 1975 and was reauthorized in 1990 as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This legislation set guidelines for providing for the needs of students with disabilities. Providing an appropriate education means student’s education must occur within the least restrictive educational environment. Least restrictive environment means the environment in which the student will be able to receive education that meets his or her specific needs, such as the regular classroom, if this is the environment in which the student can learn best.

The least restrictive educational environment is not always the regular classroom (Keffeler, 2008). Exceptional student education replaces the terms special education and refers to the education of students with special needs. Adaptive education is educational approaches aimed at providing learning experiences that help each student achieve desired educational goals. Education is adaptive when school learning environments are modified to respond effectively to students differences and to enhance the individual’s ability to succeed in learning in such environments.

Mainstreaming means educating exceptional students in the least restrictive environment, or natural environment, for them. Natural environments are those environments in which students would be if they did not have a disability, such as child-care center, Head Start and preschool programs. Today, the philosophy and practice of meeting student’s special needs is to educate exceptional students in the neighborhood school and in the general educational classroom. Inclusion supports the right of all students to participate in natural environments.

Full inclusion is the inclusion of all children with disabilities into natural environments such as playgrounds, family day-care centers, preschool and general education classrooms in elementary, middle, and high schools (Smyth, 2008) Change is one of the constants of teaching and schooling. Areas such as the curriculum, how students are taught, and the organization of instruction change as a result of reform efforts that occur about every ten to fifteen years. It is important to understand the current climate and past patterns of school reform.

For example, during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, open education became popular in the United States. The open education movement attempted to restructure education to make learning more students centered and relevant. It inspired nongraded programs, classrooms without walls, the use of learning stations, multiage grouping, active learning, individualized instruction and team teaching. Although much of these reforms fell out of favor in the 1980’s, teachers today use many of these ideas in new forms. So while change brings new ideas and concepts, change also brings the recycling of ideas and processes to fit perceived needs of the time.

Just as metaphors describe teaching, the metaphor of waves can be used to describe educational reform efforts. To help to understand just try picturing reform as waves regularly rolling on the sandy shores of the educational establishment, with differing effects depending on the nature and content of the reform proposal and the willingness of teachers and others to accept the reform proposals (Tyack, 2003). Calls for the reform of teaching occur with regularity almost every ten years. They are often the result of societal, economic or international crises.

Reform movements generate continuing reform efforts that often run parallel to each other and in some cases are contradictory. The first wave of contemporary school reform movements was set in motion by the launching of the Sputnik in 1957 and resulted in schooling reforms of the 60’s and 70’s. The second reform wave occurred in the late 50’s and 60’s with the passage of federal legislation to promote equal opportunity and school desegregation and to reduce poverty. The Civil Rights Movement and crises of the Vietnam era influenced education reform.

The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 began Head Start, which was designed to provide for the cognitive, social and health needs of young disadvantaged children as a means of helping them succeed in school. A third wave of reform, which is still affecting schools and educational practice, began in 1983, a watershed year for school criticism (Pedro, 2003). The fourth wave of educational reform of the 80’s and early 90’s sought change through restructuring based on the deregulation of education. The school choice movement and school restructuring were outgrowths of the economic turmoil of the 1980’s.

In School restructuring, teachers, school administrators and parents all become involved in making decisions about how to improve teaching and learning. At the forefront of these reforms are school based approaches, such as school based management and shared decision making, classroom based approaches, such as cooperative learning; and alternative forms of testing, such as evaluation based on performance and product. Fifth and the very influential wave is Goals 2000 (formerly called America 2000), passed as part of the Goal 2000: Educate America Act in 1994.

These goals stress readiness for school, high school completion, student achievement and citizenship, world-class standards in math and science, adult literacy and lifelong learning, safe and drug-free schools, teacher’s education and professional development and parental participation. The sixth wave in the late 90’s seeks to redesign schooling based on the needs and conditions of the workplace (Tyack, 2003). The newest framework of educational reform focuses on the cultural impacts on teaching and learning. All students and teachers bring a cultural frame of reference to school.

For some students, the frame of reference is very similar to the culture they encounter in schools. School culture, or the way schools actually operate, has emanated largely from a cultural context involving Anglo-European American values. Students from this background typically experience the greatest familiarity with the way schools operate and with school norms. Students who come from cultural and language backgrounds that vary significantly from traditional school culture often feel unfamiliar with the school environment and school norms.

In a sense, these students have a double task; one to learn the morns of a school environment that are already familiar to others and two, to learn the same academic content that all students are expected to master (Young, 2005). Teachers who recognize that the complexity of learning tasks increases for students who are less familiar with traditional school culture provide a variety of teaching approaches as well as ample time for instruction. The goal for these teachers is not equal treatment but equitable treatment, which is providing students with teaching approaches and attention that are proportional to their academic needs.

Students who come from low-income backgrounds frequently enter school speaking nonstandard varieties of English. When these students are taught to read, they must learn new grammatical constructions of Standard English along with the language decoding process. Meanwhile, most of their English speaking peers can focus more quickly on decoding and other reading skills, since they are already familiar with standard English grammar and hear it spoken at home (Anyon, 1991). The cultural background of the student plays a major role in the learning process.

Culture frequently influences how students respond to various teaching approaches. Students from Native American cultures will often not respond to questions posed openly before the entire class. What may be viewed as disinterest is actually a cultural norm that one should not venture answers in public before one is certain. For another example, a classroom that is highly teacher centered and structured may be effective with Asian immigrant’s students who were accustomed to this model in their countries of origin.

However, the same approach may be ineffective with Mexican American students, who prefer cooperative learning environments. While there is no single teaching approach that is uniformly effective with all students, teachers often rely heavily on one method. This is increasingly true as grade levels get higher. What is most beneficial is to use a variety of instructional approaches that are reflective of the different learning modalities present in every classroom (Young, 2005).

In many schools and classrooms, educators have historically dismissed racial, ethnic, linguistic, and gender differences by saying they didn’t see differences in their students. This statement is misguided on two counts. First, in all human groups differences exist; our only choice as educators is whether or not we want to recognize those differences in our teaching. Second, research in the area of school and classroom climate has consistently shown that students of different genders, races and ethnicities receive different treatment in schools.

Teachers interact with, call on with greater frequency, praise more highly, and intellectually challenge students who are middle class, male and white (Anyon, 1991). The socioeconomic background of students has a significant effect on the type and quality of teaching students receives as well as on their ultimate academic achievement. The socioeconomic (SES) of students affects the general funding level of the school district students attend as well as assignment to a particular school. School assignment is determined principally by where students reside.

So the ability to reside in upper income neighborhoods generally gives these students access to the nation’s best public schools. Students who reside in lower income neighborhoods are much more likely to attend public schools lacking the material infrastructure necessary for a quality education. In addition, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are disproportionately placed in lower academic tracks. Tracking is generally justified on the basis that students with similar backgrounds may have teaching tailored to their needs and therefore their deficiencies can be remediated more easily (Tyack, 2003).

Another issue affecting students from economically deprived households who are often placed in low income tracks is their interaction with teachers. Contrary to expectations, teachers in low track classrooms actually spend less time in direct instruction then that of teachers working with middle or upper track students. Lower track students are viewed more negatively by teachers than their higher track counterparts, and teachers working with upper track students use more effective teaching approaches than teachers working with lower track students.

When these factors are combined, they negatively affect the academic achievements of students from low socioeconomics backgrounds (Naguera, 2003). Four decades ago, the public school curriculum was almost entirely ethnocentric, reflecting the European roots of the majority culture in the United States and today, the school curriculum reflects the more diverse society of the Untied States. Beginning in the 60’s monoethnic units such as Black History or Hispanic Literature were added to the high school curriculum mainly to benefit students from these groups.

In elementary schools, heroes and holidays representing minority groups were added to the curriculum and school calendar. While monoehtnic materials added diversity to the school curriculum, they reached relatively few students and teachers. Multicultural education, by contrast, attempts to broaden the perspective of all students at all grade levels. Global education is an effort to ensure that information and perspectives emanating from outside the United States are brought to bear in the classroom.

This is particularly true for non-Western content, which historically has been underemphasized. Multicultural education is linked with global education because students must understand cultural diversity in a national context before they can understand diversity in a more complex global setting (Young, 2005). The critics of multicultural and global education claim that teaching about cultural diversity nationally or internationally compromises national unity and the national interest.

In answering this critique, educators should explain there is no reason why studying diversity nationally or internationally should diminish national unity or pride. Instead America should welcome the different cultures as part of its national heritage. Multicultural education looks at academically relevant knowledge and events from the perspectives of all ethnic or cultural groups. While not everything taught in our schools has a multicultural dimension, most topics do.

Even subjects that are perceived to have little cultural content, like mathematics and science, have multicultural dimensions. For example, the multicultural and glo9bal history of mathematics is seldom presented when that subject is taught strictly from a problem-solving perspective. But mathematics has a cultural aspect too. Algebra is an Arabic word meaning restitution. Al-Khwarizmi, an early mathematician, acknowledged that in an equation one adds and subtracts identical quantities on both sides (Tyack, 2003).

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