Observation notes

Hi everyone. I’d like to present a few thoughts from the TS1 theme day at VÖS.

Starting from a general perspective, I think that the idea of combining disciplines in such theme days is a good one. In all our subjects we may well consider the same themes. For example, the topic of modern technology may well emerge as a talking point in history, philosophy, languages, mathematics, and so on. Such topics are normally not considered in association with other school subjects. The holistic approach offered by interdisciplinary approaches such as this one is appealing as a way for students to create connections not only within a broader topic but also between subjects.

The role of the overall theme is important, as the theme affects the organization of the event. This year’s theme of vatten, as others have pointed out, was perhaps too wide to provide a useful base for our student teachers to easily create appropriate activities. It occurred to me that certain themes would be better at different times of the year. It could be fun to have vatten as a topic in warmer weather as then one could have a workshop outside and actually use water in an activity, for example.

Certain school subjects tend to be more flexible in such approaches and able to fit in with a wider variety of themes. Philosophy, languages and social studies, for example, can perhaps be adapted in more ways than sports or mathematics. The role of different subjects should be taken into account when deciding on a theme.

We should also consider the question of whether subject-specific workshops would be better than combined workshops such as were used at VÖS this year. Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages but they are dependent on other factors. When organizing such events here where we have dozens of student teachers from several different subjects both approaches are at least possible.

When observing the workshops, it felt that although all of the teachers in a group were able to contribute, the fact that each group was more or less the same from a disciplinary perspective (being a mixture of different subjects) meant that although the overall theme was discussed to some degree in each workshop there was nothing identifying any one workshop from any of the others except for the specific activities undertaken in each group.

In my opinion, in general, a subject-specific approach is likely to be more practical both from an organizational perspective and from a pedagogical one. I think that studying a broad subject like vatten would undoubtedly be better considered in this way. It would be more interesting and useful for the students to understand, ‘ok, now we’re looking at water from a historical/religious/linguistic standpoint’. A more specific theme could more easily be worked with in combined groups.

Indeed, if any of us were to participate in such theme days in our future working lives in a ‘normal’ school, it us much more likely that they would be organized with subject-specific workshops since the numbers of teachers available is so much smaller. In a normal school there might be two or three history teachers, not fifteen, for example. It might, therefore, also provide a more realistic experience for the subject teachers if subject-specific groups are employed. Subject-specific groups require more coordination with each other to operate effectively as a whole.

Having said all of that, from a student teacher’s point of view having combined subject groups can be a positive thing, as it affords the opportunity to work with teachers of different subjects and strengthen those relationships.

It would be advantageous for groups to discuss with each other their ideas for activities and try to ensure that the same activities are not repeated too much. For example, although the practice of dividing students into groups and having them discuss something is popular and easy from the teacher’s point of view, if the students have to do that too much (even if they like talking) it soon becomes repetitive. In a situation where you have, say, six or seven workshops, discussion activities should form the main part of perhaps two of those groups. Other possible main activities could include drama work, creative or physical activities, and so on. Making sure that there is a decent spread of tasks makes the day more interesting for everyone.

As for the workshops at VÖS themselves, in general I thought that all the groups did well with an unhelpful subject. Certain workshops stick in my mind – the drama activity with the slave ship, the creative myths activity, and the comparison between two advertisements related to water were all, in my opinion, especially thought-provoking and interesting. I was happy to see that the pupils at VÖS engaged with all the activities enthusiastically.

Finally, my overall thoughts of the day are positive, and it would have been very interesting to have been involved in the project from the start. I definitely think that interdisciplinary theme days are a useful and positive addition to our teacher’s arsenal, despite the high degree of cooperation and organization that is required.

TL;DR Good job everyone!

 

Nick

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