Enhancing Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning through Guided Assessment Design

Author: Shani Sniedze-Gregory

Sniedze-Gregory, Shani, 2018 Enhancing Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning through Guided Assessment Design, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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Interdisciplinary teaching and learning has been proposed as an effective pedagogical method for enhancing students’ understanding and abilities within, between and across disciplines, as well as a useful strategy for enabling a variety of skills necessary for the modern world (ACARA, 2017c; Griffin et al., 2017; IBO, 2017c; Partnership for 21st Century Learning, 2015). Multiple resources are available for teachers that provide guidance in planning and enabling interdisciplinarity in the classroom. Guidance for assessment of interdisciplinary learning, however, are scarce. Since assessment is a key element in the teaching and learning process (Black & Wiliam, 2010; Earl, 2006; Hattie & Timperley, 2007; Rowntree, 1987), this scarcity of practical interdisciplinary assessment resources is a challenge for the implementation of interdisciplinary pedagogy.

This thesis addresses this challenge through the creation of an interdisciplinary assessment framework. The research process focuses on the research question, how can interdisciplinary planning, teaching and learning be enhanced through assessment design? The intended outcome was a pedagogical framework that could support teacher practices of interdisciplinary curriculum design and assessment.

The interdisciplinary framework was designed with reference to two goals. The first goal was for the framework to be theoretically defensible by aligning it with contemporary conceptual knowledge related to interdisciplinary quality. The second goal was for the framework to be translatable within diverse classroom contexts, ensuring it was both accessible and enabling for classroom teachers. Checkpoints for these research goals, that the framework be theoretical rigorous, accessible and enabling, are embedded throughout the research.

Educational design research was the methodology used that meant that the generation of the framework was iterative, eliciting contributions from the conceptual literature and teacher voice in the revision and improvement processes. Participating teachers who were already involved in the implementation of classroom-based interdisciplinary approaches from early middle school through to senior high school years were recruited from four schools in the Adelaide (South Australia) metropolitan area.

The research process resulted in a co-creation with the participating teachers of a comprehensive pedagogical framework, rather than a simple assessment tool. An additional unintended research outcome was the uncovering of contextual factors that have significant influence on the implementation of interdisciplinary pedagogies. These contextual factors related to schools’ organisational structures such as timetabling and existing assessment practices, as well as the conceptual gap in teacher thinking that arises when innovative curriculums are introduced.

This research confirms that interdisciplinary planning, teaching and learning can be enabled and enhanced through assessment design and presents a comprehensive pedagogical framework for interdisciplinary classroom practice. The framework is a resource that is theoretically defensible, accessible and enabling for teachers, and can be adapted to the variety of challenges that arise in diverse classroom contexts.

Keywords: Interdisciplinary curriculum, integrated curriculum, middle school curriculum, interdisciplinary framework, teaching resource

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2018
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Professor Janice Orrell