Project Based Learning and Integrated Curriculum

One of the main goals in education is to help students not only reach their full potential academically, but to teach them how to be good citizens in their communities, countries, and world. To accomplish this in my classroom, I believe that using an integrated curriculum where connections are made between all subjects, tested and non-tested. Ellis


Figure 1: Multidisciplinary Approach

and Stuen (1998) suggest using thematic teaching. In thematic teaching, all subjects are centered around a central theme, in a multidisciplinary (figure 1), interdisciplinary (figure 2), or transdiciplinary (figure 3) approach (Drake and Burns, 2004). In a multidisciplinary approach, there is a central theme and each of the disciplines (math, science, music, PE, history, drama, literacy, etc.) each relate to this theme. In an interdisciplinary approach, the disciplines are connected to each other but still taught separately. Teachers find the common learnings in each discipline to help students forge these connections.


Figure 2: Interdisciplinary Approach

The approach that I would like to use, the transdisciplinary approach, is organized around student questions and concerns. It focuses on the theme as an end goal, where the disciplines are used as a way to achieve that end learning. Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a good example of a transdisciplinary approach. The theme in a PBL unit might be designing a better parking lot for the school after a fender bender during pick-up hours. In this service-learning type project, students would need to use math, science, literacy, and social skills (among others) to plan and present a new design. Meanwhile they would be implementing these skills in an authentic, real-life situation that will have real results, and afterward would reflect on the process and the effect of their work. In this type of work, students are the producers of knowledge rather than consumers. They see a problem, think of a solution, and produce the work involved to make that solution happen. The teachers are guides as the students ask questions that become the center of the curriculum. During this process, teachers can incorporate many subjects into their project as they come up, allowing for implicit prac


Figure 3: Transdisciplinary Approach

tice of each of the subject areas. Something that I would have to keep in mind if I were to use PBL in my classroom, though, is that it can’t take up the entire day, as I would need to explicitly teach subjects. This might be where the multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary approaches come in. I can still connect these subjects (for example, literacy or math) to our project or to each other, but will need to make sure my students have the basic tools they will need to use for their project.

I think a combination of these three types of integrated curriculum, adjusted based on the class and the learners in it, will help me teach students to use their academic skills outside the classroom and work toward becoming citizens of their communities and world. Realistically, though I like PBL learning and actually went to a PBL high school, it may not be something I can tackle in my first year without experience first. I hope to be able to integrate my curriculum in other ways using a central theme, and perhaps have smaller projects related to that theme. In this way I will bring PBL and integrated curriculum into my classroom.

Drake, S., and Burns, R. (2004). Meeting standards through integrated curriculum. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Ellis, A., Stuen, C. (1998). The interdisciplinary curriculum. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.