Transdisciplinary Education: Learning That is Authentic and Relevant
Transdisciplinary learning is the exploration of a relevant concept, issue or problem that integrates the perspectives of multiple disciplines in order to connect new knowledge and deeper understanding to real life experiences.
At The Magellan International School, learning is not confined by traditional subjects but is supported and enriched by them. Each one of the transdisciplinary themes of the Primary Years Program (PYP) encompasses the universal understandings common to all human beings. They are open enough to embrace a variety of perspectives and content areas.
For example, during the unit “How we express ourselves”, students explore ways in which we discover and express ideas, our feelings, nature, different cultures, beliefs and values, creativity and our appreciation of aesthetics. This theme is deeply explored by asking students conceptual questions such as:
How are beliefs connected to the way we express ourselves?
Do all cultures express their nature and feelings in the same way?
Why is it like this? How is it connected to other things?
What is our responsibility in expressing feelings and ideas?
Why has the concept of aesthetic changed through time?
Where does creativity come from?
Above: In the “Sharing the Planet” unit, PP3 students studied animals and their classifications/characteristics, including their eating habits, similarities and differences as well as unique habitats. Concepts were shared by reading a variety of books in English and Spanish, building model habitats for types of animals, hatching butterflies and drawing/painting animals.
Through different ways of exploration, students develop a layered understanding of themselves and the connections they have with the rest of humanity.
Best practices in a transdisciplinary environment do not compartmentalize learning, but rather explore content within the context of inquiry. For example, children learning about beliefs and values around the world (Social Studies) might compare and contrast characteristics of religions. With that information, they will be working with a math strand of data using tally marks and graphs to analyze information.
Through languages, they will explore new vocabulary that will help them create poems while getting to know well-known authors of the 20th century. Through the visual arts, they will explore their creativity by learning new techniques and materials to paint a self-portrait. In Music, students might analyze and explore beliefs and values expressed through New Age music.
Transdisciplinary learning requires that all teachers are involved and collaborate. They must shift away from the comfort zone of working individually by sharing ideas with others for the purpose of integrating learning experiences. This results in building meaningful and enduring understandings for students.
Ultimately, transdisciplinary learning goes further by helping students grow and learn at a deeper level, and we are delighted to offer this opportunity for learning to our students across all primary grades – preschool through 5th grade – at The Magellan International School.