What Children Can Do Education Essay

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This essay explores a critical evaluation of cross-curricular approaches to teaching and learning. I will attempt to uncover the impact of the approach to a child's learning including children's motivation to learn. The aim for the essay, is to provide a balance argument into whether an integrated curriculum or discrete subject taps into a child's knowledge by providing the knowledge, challenging children's view and they have understood what has been taught, is the product of successful teaching and learning in education. The debate of discrete subjects versus cross-curriculum has been widely debated over the years. The Plowden Report (1967) was the introduction on this long debate on education approaches. The report stresses the emphasis on child centered teaching and learning, children's own interests to influence learning and to understand the world around them as well as their role in the environment.

Philosophical perspectives of education suggest that a combination of concepts could contribute to understanding of the world. In the 17th century philosopher Jan Comenius believes that teachers should use a variety of methods to ensure children understand facts as well the external world. Comenius work and beliefs has influenced the curriculum to date suggesting the importance of children understanding their external environment. The philosopher stressed that the use of outdoor activities is essential to teaching and learning. He was the original pioneer of the concept that children should experience enjoyment while they are learning. The second legendary philosopher, Jean- Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778 cited in Barnes, 2010) research on education was inspired by nature. He suggests that through experience learning took place. This work is used in modern education today as work should be stimulating and children should be able to relate it to their everyday lives. This suggests that first hand experience as well as stimulating as well as creative work underlines learning. Comenius and Rousseau work on education was inspiring to the national curriculum as it promotes children having real life experiences of topics such as sounds, healthy eating so children can have a real connection with external concepts that can be connected to their lives outside school. Tyler's (1949) approach to the theory of the development of the curriculum was introduced in the 1940s. His approach is known as the product approach argues the importance of outcomes. According to Tyler (1949) outcomes should be measured but broken down into smaller segments. His approach stresses four principles that must be included in education these are expressing goals, creating and establishing experiences that has an effect on their learning and assessing student's work. This work was influential for many years and later the work of Lawrence Stenhouse was developed. Stenhouse (1974, cited by Psifidou 2009 p.2) process approach focussed on 'selecting content, developing teaching stategies, sequencing learning experiences and assessing student's strengths and weaknesses'. Both of the theories are significant to the the theory of curriculum development as this shows the influence of goals, outcomes and assessing student's work.

The Education reform Act (1988 cited by White) was introduced in the UK leading to the development of the National Curriculum as well national tests such as SATs for 7 and 11 years olds introduced in 1993. It consisted subject being taught independently. The National Curriculum consists of foundation subjects such as history, geography, music, art, physical education and modern foreign languages as well as the three-core subjects mathematics, English and science. However, the Ofsted Report (1993) on the Curriculum Organisation and Classroom Practice in Primary Schools states that many primary schools were using topic work as well as separate teaching subjects. However, half of the school researched showed inaccurate record keeping for topic work. This suggests that a child's progress is not fully recorded therefore sufficient progress cannot be made. A second limitation of ineffective record keeping is that a child's needs are not being met; as the school does not know the subjects they are failing in.

The National Curriculum (1988) did not have any underlying philosophical concepts, as it states that subjects are taught separately. Initially there were no aims until after the introduction of the National Curriculum. The aims were to

To promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of the society

To prepare such pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities, and experiences of adult life.

Shoemaker (1989) defines cross curriculum as 'education that is organized in such a way that it cuts across subject-matter lines, bringing together various aspects of the curriculum into meaningful association… it views learning and teaching in a holistic way and reflects the real world which is interactive'.

Collins, Brown and Newman (1989) argue that the cross curriculum is essential for increasing a children knowledge that can be applied in school as well as outside school. It has been argued that the most successful school uses cross curriculum as a way to integrate subjects so children's knowledge can be developed further, as well as providing innovation for teacher and enjoyment for children. According to Alexander, Rose & Woodhead (1992), there is insufficient evidence to suggest that the cross-curricular approach enhance children's learning. They class the cross curricular approach as 'superficial teaching and learning' (Alexander et al, pg 2). They suggest that an independent approach to subjects is more beneficial to a child's learning experience. However in the 2009 Cambridge Primary Review he does suggest the importance of the integrated curriculum to the students learning.

Applebee, Langer & Mullis (1989) suggests that the integrated approach is crucial to a child's ability to think and reason. According to Applebee et al, (1989) skills that are learnt in the classroom can be adopted to the external environment, which suggest children are learning skills and knowledge that are relevant to their everyday lives. Although, the structure of the curriculum is important there are other aspects that should be considered such as the classroom dynamics. Children have the right to learn in a stimulating and creative environment. It has been suggested that creativity stimulates a child's ability to learn as well as enjoying the process of learning. Creativity is defined as Ofsted (2010) proposes that creativity is now a standard that should be met in school as it encourages children to be creative in their work.

A school based in London highlights the importance of discrete subjects relevance to children's learning. The school follows a discrete subject discipline, which has been successful in enriching and developing children's knowledge suggesting it may be a schools approach to the disciplines. As the school uses a broad curriculum and personalized learning, this ensures that all pupils' needs and interests are met. This poses the idea if children's learning is dependent upon the integrated/discrete subject approach and the schools method to dealing with the curriculum. This shows that maybe success is deep rooted in personalized learning and providing a broad curriculum for the enjoyment and excitement of learning (Michael Gove, in the Guardian, 2009). This shows that it may be the way the school delivers the discrete subject approach what determines it's success or failure to children's understanding. However, Ofsted criticizes the discrete subject approach in enriching a child's learning experience. The Ofsted report (2002) proposes that Her Majesty Inspectors (HMI) suggests there is not valid evidence to propose the idea that core subjects taught independently is beneficial to a child's learning. Although, it can be suggested that all topic cannot be linked to a different subject, as some topics needs to be taught independently as some skills cannot be transferred.

According to Cassidy (1999), the pressure of teachers focusing on core subjects such as mathematics and English, leads to reduction on the teaching time of foundation subjects. Foundation subjects are categorsied as Physical Education, R.E., PSCHE, modern foreign languages, (MFL). However, through the cross-curricular approach children will be able to build their subject knowledge through other subjects. Smith (2008) disagrees with the view that distinct subject teaching can affect a child's learning. Smith (2008) summaries the advantages of subject based approach, stating that it gives teachers the ability to focus on skills essential for each subject, children's progress may be easier to assess and it provides links to the secondary curriculum. Supporters of this approach may say its good to be taught this way as it prepares them for secondary school, as the structure of the national curriculum is different.

Boyle & Baggs (2006) suggests that the strict structure of the national curriculum does not provide any relevance to a child's life as it focused on the core subjects. However, the 2011 National Curriculum proposes that teachers should explain to children the importance of topics to everyday life so children are able to make connections to their own lives. Although, Ofsted (2003) article emphasize the potential benefits derived from cross-curricular links benefits a child's understanding but it can be seen as a 'barrier to creativity' (Laurie, in Kerry, 2011). This is dependent on whether the links benefits the child; the main focus is that the child's educational needs are met. This suggests that teachers may have difficulties making link to each theme with different subjects, which can be viewed as time consuming. Through lesson planning I have seen the potential of cross curricular work on a child's motivation to learn as they are very enthusiastic to learn through the use of different medias but it is very time consuming thinking of connections but I have seen that it does benefit a child's learning experience and as teachers that's our job to provide a stimulating and creative environment for children to learn.

The use of a thematic/cross curricular work can be used as a gradual progression from Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) to primary school. Broadhead (2009) research showed that through play problem solving, which learning could be enhanced through questioning however the purpose of the activity is unknown whereas in the primary stage purposes of work are more transparent. This suggests the importance of a flexible curriculum where teachers are not restricted from subjects. The importance of play is detrimental in the early years of a child's physical, emotional and social development. However, there are opponents against the view that through play this can enhance a child's learning and understanding of concepts. Cohen (2006) suggests that learning primarily through play may not be beneficial to a child's understanding and development as this can lead to aggressive behaviours towards other children. This depends on the type of play they are using, as aggressive play does not benefit any child. This suggests that work through play in the EYFS slowly adjusts children to beginning in Year 1 where play is reduced slowly so children are mostly doing work. On the other hand, Rose review (DSCF, 2008) suggests that cross curricular subjects and discrete subjects should not be vanish from primary education as they are both relevant to a childs learning. This suggests the importance f both approaches in terms of their purposes to education.

Cross curricular teaching has been primarily linked to creativity and innovation in primary schools (Ofsted, 2003). Thematic teaching promotes creativity a it allows children to make connections and links between different subjects which can enhance understanding, produce original questions, unique ideas bringing their own connections to the lesson. As cross-curricular work allows two subjects to be mixed together this can enhance a teachers ability to be very creative to enhance their student first hand experience. Additionally, the subject based approach can promote creativity and innovation as teachers may have a subject they specialize in, as they have secure subject knowledge they will be able to fulfill creative lessons which can lead to original questions and ideas. Also as the teacher would be teaching subjects separately they will have more time to think of creative and stimulating lessons could enhance a child's learning and knowledge. The Cambridge Primary Review (2009) informs my analysis as it consists of domains, these domains contribute to a child's skills and knowledge. The domains are split into eight domains, which are:

Arts and creativity

Citizenship and ethics

Faith and belief

Language, oracy and literacy

Mathematics

Physical and emotional health

Place and time

Science and technology

The first domain is arts and creativity summaries that children should be engaged and enthusiastic when learning. This domains works along the Ofsted report 'Excitement and Enjoyment' suggesting that children's knowledge are increased when they are stimulating and engaged in creative and innovative lessons. The Cambridge Primary Review (2009) suggests that children should be inspired through creative work so this gives children a better understanding of concepts and themes. Also this would enable children to ask questions that is unique to them which means they are getting the best education as they are constantly engaging in the lesson.

The areas of learning are six areas of knowledge that provides a broad knowledge that can be applied to their own lives as well as adult life. The six areas of learning are personal development, communication, problem solving (numeracy), understanding world issues, and the ability to understand physical and creative development. These makes up skills and knowledge that can be applied external to the classroom. This feature of the National Curriculum provides a rich insight into subjects and can lead to the enjoyment of learning. This gives them the opportunity to be enthusiastic learners in society. This is a unique feature of the cross-curricular approach providing breadth and depth of the topic. This should lead to a greater insight as to what was taught and understanding. The aspects of areas of learning provides teachers flexibility to the teaching of the cross curricular subjects and they can also make an informed choice regarding topics that needs to taught separately to enhance children's learning (Rose, cited in DCSF, 2008).

Figure 1. The areas of learning model showing there are 6 areas of learning that is the main focus in EYFS that shapes children's development in terms of physically, creativity, knowledge, social and communication skills.

Cross curricular teaching has been primarily linked to creativity and innovation in primary schools (Ofsted, 2003). Thematic teaching promotes creativity a it allows children to make connections and links between different subjects which can enhance understanding, produce original questions, unique ideas bringing their own connections to the lesson. As cross-curricular work allows two subjecs to be mixed together this can enhance a teachers ability to be very creative to enhance their student first hand experience. Additionally, the subject based approach can promote creativity and innovation as teachers may have a subject they specialize in, as they have secure subject knowledge they will be able to fulfill creative lessons which can lead to original questions and ideas. Also as the teacher would be teaching subjects separately they will have more time to think of creative and stimulating lessons could enhance a child's learning and knowledge.

The Cambridge Primary Review (2009) informs my analysis as it consists of domains, these domains contribute to a child's skills and knowledge. The domains are split into eight domains, which are:

Arts and creativity

Citizenship and ethics

Faith and belief

Language, oracy and literacy

Mathematics

Physical and emotional health

Place and time

Science and technology

The first domain is arts and creativity summaries that children should be engaged and enthusiastic when learning. This domains works along the Ofsted report 'Excitement and Enjoyment' suggesting that children's knowledge are increased when they are stimulating and engaged in creative and innovative lessons. The Cambridge Primary Review (2009) suggests that children should be inspired through creative work so this gives children a better understanding of concepts and themes. Also this would enable children to ask questions that is unique to them which means they are getting the best education as they are constantly engaging in the lesson.

The thematic approach aims to develop a creative and inclusive way of teaching and learning. The aims of the thematic approach has got in common with the aims of the Early Years framework as it aims to provide a creative, innovative and engages students by using pupils different skills and interests to devise learning.

In the new EYFS framework (2012) there are seven areas of learning these are communication skills, physical development, personal, social and emotional development. There are four other areas of learning, which is literacy, mathematic, encouraging children's curiosity and interest in the world and an appreciation of the arts. These seven areas are supported by a thematic approach to teaching in subsequent age groups as it promotes collaborative, creative way of teaching subject areas. Teaching in key stage 1 and 2 who enjoy thematic curriculum enables children to play an active role in their learning, as well as encouraging children to make healthy choices through science. These two elements are initially introduced in the EYFS and is then followed into the the later phases.

My personal opinion from observing in a school the thematic teaching is extremely popular in creating a creative, innovative and engages students to motivate them to learn. The disadvantage of the thematic curriculum is the planning period it takes to plan cross curricular links between themes. However, the advantage outweighs the disadvantages as a child's needs are the focus of the theme. The advantages of the subject based approach is good as subjects are taught independently which means children will have a better opportunity of gaining better subject knowledge. I observed some teaching that does not reflect about how children learn best, as teachers are bun boarded with new initiatives and practices they must follow and they have a routine they follow and children has been following. They may think a new way of learning will disrupt children's behaviour as well as stage of learning.

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