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From Round Table Planning to Full Integration: A Model for Collaboration

Integration is a crucial aspect of concept-based teaching and learning. It involves connecting different ideas or concepts to deepen understanding and create a more cohesive and comprehensive view of a particular topic. In simpler terms, integration is the process of linking different elements or pieces of information to create a complete and meaningful picture.

In concept-based teaching and learning, integration is essential because it helps students see the bigger picture and understand how different ideas fit together. It allows them to make connections between different concepts and apply their knowledge to solve complex problems or real-world situations. Integration also promotes critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as students are encouraged to think beyond the surface-level and consider how different concepts are related.

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The Challenges of Authentic Integration

Authentic integration, which is the seamless incorporation of different subject areas into a unified learning experience, can be challenging to achieve. One of the main difficulties is creating genuine and purposeful connections between disparate concepts and subject areas. This requires specific and purposeful collaborative planning among educators.

More than often, and despite our best intentions and efforts, subject integration merely creates superficial or shallow connections between subject areas, which can result in a missed opportunity to create a meaningful transfer of knowledge and skills across subjects and contexts.

An example of this tenuous integration can be seen when a history teacher asks students to draw pictures of ancient civilizations to integrate art to their lesson without any clear connection or purpose. Similarly, a science teacher who asks students to write a poem about photosynthesis without any explicit links to the subject matter is also engaging in tenuous integration. These examples highlight the importance of purposeful planning and collaboration among teachers to ensure that integration is authentic and meaningful for students.

The Flaws of Traditional Round Table Planning

Effective integration in concept-based teaching and learning requires more than just such surface-level collaboration among educators and subjects. The traditional round table planning style, where teachers simply share their lesson plans and activities, is not enough to promote deep integration. While this method may provide some benefits, such as increasing awareness of what other educators are doing, it doesn't foster genuine collaboration.

Instead, educators need to work together purposefully to create meaningful connections between concepts and subjects. This requires intentional planning that goes beyond simply sharing lesson plans. Genuine collaboration should involve discussing ideas, identifying connections, and co-creating lessons that deeply integrate multiple concepts and subjects.

By working collaboratively, educators can ensure that integration is purposeful and relevant, rather than superficial and disconnected. They can also better identify potential areas of overlap and determine how to leverage them to promote deeper learning. Ultimately, authentic integration requires a shift away from traditional round table planning and towards a more collaborative approach that emphasizes deep connections and purposeful planning.

Levels of Integration Model

The Levels of Integration Model is a framework designed by Andy Vasily (PYP: The Levels of Integration*) to promote deep collaboration and integration among teachers. This model aims to create a comprehensive and purposeful approach to integration that goes beyond superficial connections between subject areas. The model consists of three levels, each representing a higher degree of integration than the previous one:

Level 1 integration

At Level 1 integration, teachers make connections between at least one Learner Profile attribute or an ATL skill. This is a good starting point, but it might be not enough to promote deep integration.

Level 2 integration

At Level 2 integration, teachers add a connection with key and/or related concepts, as well as multiple Learner Profile attributes or ATL skills. This level of integration encourages teachers to think more deeply about the connections between concepts and skills, and to collaborate with colleagues to create meaningful learning experiences.

Level 3 integration

At Level 3 integration, teachers make connections in regards to the central idea, key and related concepts, Learner Profile attributes and ATLs. This level of integration is often referred to as "Full Integration" and is the most complex level of integration. It requires purposeful and collaborative planning, as well as a deep understanding of the central idea and related concepts. Full integration allows students to explore the central idea from multiple perspectives and develop a deeper understanding of the key concepts and skills.

The Levels of Integration Model emphasizes the importance of purposeful collaboration and encourages teachers to move beyond superficial connections between subjects. It provides a clear framework for teachers to work together to promote deep integration and enhance students' learning experiences.

Collaboration and Planning for Integration

By using the Levels of Integration Model and establishing a collaborative planning process, educators can promote deeper integration of subjects in teaching and learning. This can result in more meaningful and relevant learning experiences for students.

Collaboration and planning are essential for successful integration using the Levels of Integration Model. It is important for teachers to establish what level of integration to use for their unit of inquiry. The coordinator can provide support and advice on the levels of integration and how they align with the unit's goals and objectives.

Once the level of integration is established for a unit, teachers can begin to plan and collaborate with specialists to identify opportunities for integration.

For example, music teachers can work with classroom teachers to integrate their subject into a unit of inquiry. Some examples of music integration for each level could include:

  1. A music project that requires learners to communicate effectively and collaborate, connecting to the ATL communication skills.

  2. Using music to explore different cultures and traditions related to the concept of "culture"

  3. Exploring how music can express emotions and connect to the central idea of "expressing ourselves in different ways"

By planning and collaborating purposefully using the Levels of Integration Model, teachers can create meaningful and authentic integration opportunities that enhance learners' understanding of concepts and skills across the curriculum.

Implementing Levels of Integration in a Preschool Setting with Limited Collaboration Opportunities

In a preschool or other settings where there is no specialists and only one teacher for each grade, the responsibility for integrating different subjects and concepts falls solely on the teacher. This can be a daunting task, but the Levels of Integration model can still be useful for planning and executing integrated units of inquiry.

While teachers may not have access to specialists like a music teacher, they can still incorporate various subject areas into the unit using the Levels of Integration. For example, for a level 2 integration, a teacher might choose to have students create a song or chant that highlights the function and interdependence of the different systems within a community. This would not only integrate music into the unit but also reinforce the key and related concepts (function, interdepence) as well as the Learner Profile attributes and ATL skills (communicator, communication skills).

Even in a preschool setting where there is limited collaboration opportunities, the Levels of Integration model can be a useful tool for planning and executing integrated units of inquiry. It allows teachers to intentionally and purposefully integrate different subjects and concepts, helping students make meaningful connections and promoting deep understanding.

Learning centers can also be a valuable tool for teachers to integrate subject areas within the unit of inquiry.

Using Learning Centers for Subject Integration in a Preschool Classroom

Learning centers can be an effective way to support integration of various subject areas, especially in situations where there is only one teacher for each grade. In this case, the teacher can use learning centers to replace the roles of specialists.

For example, a music center can be designed to provide opportunities for students to explore different types of music, create their own music, and develop their understanding of musical concepts such as rhythm, melody, and harmony. Similarly, the science center can be used to integrate sciences by providing students with hands-on opportunities to explore scientific concepts, conduct experiments, and develop scientific skills such as observation, data collection, and analysis.

By creating learning centers that align with the central idea and key and related concepts of the unit of inquiry, the teacher can integrate subjects areas to the unit of inquiry in a meaningful and authentic way. Teachers can choose the level of integration for each center based on the needs and interests of the students, as well as their own strengths and resources. While collaboration with specialists would be ideal, it is possible for a single teacher to provide a well-rounded education with purposeful and intentional integration!

However, in order for the learning centers to promote effective integration, it is important for teachers to have a well-rounded understanding and knowledge of the curriculum. This will allow them to design the learning centers with intention, ensuring that each center is purposeful and meaningful in promoting learning across various subject areas.

This is why it is very important that all teachers are actively involved in the creation or review of the school's programme of inquiry.

Check my article about Creating a Programme of Inquiry (POI) and continue reading this blog for a full article on how to use learning centers to support student's understanding of the central ideas and concepts,

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Final words

Integration is a vital component of concept-based teaching and learning. While authentic integration can be challenging to achieve, using the Levels of Integration Model and collaboration can help teachers promote deep integration. It is important for teachers to work closely with their PYP coordinators and specialists to determine the appropriate level of integration for each unit of inquiry. For teachers in preschools or other settings where specialists are not available, learning centers can provide a way to simulate integration of various subject areas. However, it is crucial for teachers to have a well-rounded understanding of the curriculum and intention in learning center design to ensure that each center is appropriately integrated. By employing these strategies, teachers can create a more meaningful and connected learning experience for their students.

What has been your experience with integrating different subject areas in your teaching practice? Have you used any of the strategies mentioned in this article, or do you have other ideas to share? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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* This article was inspired by Andy Vasily's blog article PYP: The Levels of Integration. The article made it easier for me to see how we can make integration purposeful and meaningful. Thanks to his insights, I now have a better grasp on how to guide teachers in choosing the appropriate level of integration for their units of inquiry, based on their experience and the content being taught.

Disclaimer: I use ChatGPT to help me with the writing process but not for generating ideas. While the AI can provide helpful suggestions, the ideas and opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own.


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