A case for Integrated Curriculum

Faculty of Graduate Studies

A case for Integrated Curriculum

A recent research article for Ontario's Ministry of Education is the latest opportunity for Joanne Reid, a Brock doctoral student in Education, to bring awareness to the teaching and learning value of integrated curriculum.

Reid and her faculty supervisor Professor Susan Drake are the co-authors of the paper "Integrated Curriculum - Increasing relevance while maintaining accountability." It was published recently by the Ministry of Education's Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat as part of its print and online series, "What Works? Research into Practice."

Drake has an established record of research in the area of educational reform and particularly innovative curriculum assessment, and has authored several books on the topic of integrated curriculum.

Reid is an Education Officer at EQAO, the government agency that develops, scores and reports on provincial assessments. She works primarily on the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test and is interested in the connections between curriculum, assessment and student learning.

The article presents a case study of Ontario’s Bluewater District School Board as strong evidence to support teaching an integrated curriculum as an approach that meets accountability mandates and ensures an engaging teaching and learning experience. It details an extensive list of key areas in which curriculum integration has a positive impact on the teaching and learning experience such as student engagement, collaboration, literacy and numeracy skills, at-risk students, curriculum coverage and assessment.

The case study is based on a 2009 project that Drake led with the Owen Sound-area board to document and analyze the teachers’ experience of introducing an integrated model at the intermediate grades. The Bluewater teachers faced the challenge of making a fundamental shift in teaching practice from the back-to-basics subject-based curriculum to the integrated approach of interweaving such subject areas as mathematics, English language skills, and geography into theme-based studies that are relevant to local and global real-world issues.

Reid was a graduate student researcher on the project along with fellow Brock doctoral students Danielle Beckett, Catherine Longboat and Barbara Harrison.

One of their first opportunities to talk about the Bluewater project was during a Brock Research Café presentation for the 2009 Mapping the New Knowledges graduate student research conference. At that time, Reid emphasized the importance of sharing the "Bluewater teachers' enthusiasm for integrated curriculum with a wider audience - good news
should travel."

“A lot of teachers remarked about the time and effort they put into implementation – it was a struggle at times,” says Reid. “But they also said, ‘now that I have taught this way, I can never go back.’ ”