In an article published in ET Magazine, Betsy Hill and Roger Stark write ..
A perennial challenge for teachers has been weaving multiple subjects into a coherent whole for students. ELA is ELA, Math is Math, and Science is Science. Right? The standards have been defined explicitly to demarcate expectations and mastery within independent domains. But those demarcations, as most teachers readily recognize, are arbitrary.
While some students are “good at math” and others are “good at reading,” the fact is that all students are good at something (even if it isn’t something the standards and curriculum recognize), and there are reasons they struggle with meeting the expectations of standardized curriculum.
Subjects like ELA, Math, Science, Financial Literacy and Social Emotional Competence are treated as independent strands in our education system. And yet, we know intuitively that these subjects are not unrelated. And we also know that the more connected we can make them, the more relevant and effective our instruction will be.
The metaphor of the blessed cloth – not as an icon of a specific religious tenet – but as a representation of the fabric that emerges from the multiple dimensions of learning – comes to mind.
The Fabric of Learning
As educators, when we endeavor to find the strands that weave themselves through our disciplines, we often struggle. In our best moments, we tend to identify cross-dimensional skills as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and problem-solving. However, the problem with those skills is that they usually defy instruction at a conceptual level. They are highly dependent on domain knowledge. And yet, domain knowledge by itself is not sufficient.
If, instead, we conceptualize learning as the network of cognitive processes that are the foundation for how our brains take in, store, process, give meaning to, retrieve, and act on information, that may be a more apt characterization of the skills that transcend the disciplines as we traditionally teach them.