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Cross-Curricular Teaching Advantages & Disadvantages

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  • 0:01 What Are…
  • 0:34 Fusion
  • 2:11 Multidisciplinary
  • 3:42 Interdisciplinary
  • 5:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Frances Smith
Cross-curricular teaching is a teacher's approach to individual and classroom learning. This lesson examines the advantages and disadvantages of three cross-curricular strategies: fusion, multidisciplinary, and interdisciplinary.

What Are Cross-Curricular Teaching Methods?

When teachers use different strategies to teach a lesson, it is called cross-curricular instruction. While there are different terms to describe the varied methods of cross-curricular teaching, each promote the same goal: prompting students to use multiple skills for learning multiple objectives.

Fusion, multidisciplinary, and interdisciplinary are three different, yet comparable, approaches to cross-curricular teaching. Each of these three methods has advantages and disadvantages for both teaching and learning.

Fusion

When institutions or teachers integrate traditional curricula with learning tools from other subjects, it is fusion. Fusion promotes students to apply knowledge and skills from one subject, such as math, to understand and perform tasks for another subject, such as science. One example would be an English teacher who naturally integrates writing, vocabulary, and research into her traditional curriculum. Other examples of fusion would be students who use the computer and teachers who routinely use smart boards fuse technology with learning.

Still, fusion may be a disadvantage for students who have insufficient prior learning to benefit from a fused lesson, which may result in them struggling to complete an objective. For instance, Mary's fifth grade class did not learn keyboarding before she entered the sixth grade. Her sixth grade science teacher required that all her students' science essays be typed and formatted. Mary spends an extra hour finishing science, so she misses some homework in her other subjects. On the other hand, Samantha has been keyboarding since fourth grade, where the teacher attached that skill along with note taking and research gathering to her social studies lessons. Samantha manages all of her science lessons and is able to finish all of her homework in time and without stress.

A second disadvantage of fusion is that one tool used to complement a lesson may be too distracting for the students. For example, a social studies teacher used an APA/MLA interactive online game for her eighth grade social studies class in preparation for them to write a research report. Yet, the students spent so much time with the game that they forgot the purpose of the lesson, so it had to be retaught.

Multidisciplinary Curriculum

Whereas in fusion, we use many subjects to teach one topic, multidisciplinary teaches one topic through different subjects. For this method, learning may happen in two ways: team teaching or subject collaboration. Teachers share time and classrooms to link their subject to a lesson idea, or a few teachers collaborate on a project that includes students performing activities from multiple disciplines. This sharing across subjects and disciplines is one advantage of multidisciplinary instruction.

To illustrate, a geometry teacher invites a geography teacher and an English teacher into her classroom to teach a lesson about angles, which she considers to be a cross-curricular teaching opportunity. The geography teacher plans to teach a lesson linking angles to measuring longitude and latitude, while the English teacher prepares a lesson linking the term to defining author's point of view.

When teachers identify ways to share curriculum, it aligns learning through multiple disciplines and supports a teacher's creativity. At the same time, students scaffold learning by building their knowledge of one subject upon another.

The biggest disadvantage of multidisciplinary teaching is time management and time consumption. Team teaching and collaborating require more time to prepare since they include performance objectives and assessments for all the curriculum lessons that are shared. Multidisciplinary teaching is impossible without a clear organizational plan from all of the teachers who share the activities.

Interdisciplinary

In education, units of learning are written to teach specific skills. For instance, a science unit may require that students understand a scientific method, whereas a math skill may require students understand an operation. When a teacher plans a project for one subject while identifying the skills students need from another subject, it is interdisciplinary teaching. When students transfer knowledge from subject to subject, it is interdisciplinary learning.

The benefit of the interdisciplinary method is its student-centered, student-engaged, and student-shared approach. It is also an effective strategy since it reinforces students' prior knowledge, learning, and understanding learning objectives. For interdisciplinary learning, the teacher designs a project, investigates the students' skills, assigns groups, then those groups assign tasks to replicate the skills needed for the project.

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