Monday, March 7, 2011

Disinterested High School Students

As I worked on this weeks assignment I came across some information regarding CATE classes and the interest they have drawn at a secondary level. It seems that career and technology classes naturally lend themselves to real-world applications and capture the attention of students in a way that other classes are failing to do. At the secondary level, traditional subject areas are not holding the attention of the average high school student. Why? And what can we do about it?

Well, I don't hear many complaints about students really struggling with interest in school at the elementary or even middle school levels...what changes when students go to high school? I suppose there is the factor of raging hormones and a drastic increase in demands on students schedules but I think there is something more than that.

Do you remember when you were in elementary school and your class decided to do a unit say on frogs? You would read about frogs in language arts, study the anatomy of frogs in science, learn about what types of frogs live in different places all over the world and how different cultures view frogs for social studies. You may even have frogs, ribbits, hops or some other frog references worked into your math lesson. EVERYTHING centered on frogs, it was all connected and came together to form a comprehensive picture that stimulated meaningful learning.

That idea is lost at the high school level. We talk a lot about cross-curricular collaboration to increase cohesion amongst subject areas but the truth is that very little of that occurrs in a timely manner. It is no wonder either, any given junior may have entirely different science, math and social studies courses, not to mention elective classes. How can so many teachers focusing on so many different subject areas possibly work in a cross-curricular way when all of their students have different courses. This doesn't even factor in the different planning times and lack of expertise in other areas really needed to attempt true cross-curricular learning.

I wonder if something can be done to alleviate this problem? I starting giving a lot of though towards teams teaching. Not really in an inclusion sense but in a sense of collaborating between subject areas. What if instead of having the vast array of different scheduling options to choose from, a student had several "tracks" to choose from when it came to core classes. For example, you could choose one of the following:
Track 1: Biology/Algebra 2/ English 2/ World History
Track 2: Physics/ Geometry/ English 2/ World History
So, every student who chose track one would have all of the same teachers. They might have them at different times depending on their electives, etc. but the teachers would still be able to work together to streamline instruction and make meaningful connections between subjects.

Of course there would need to be Pre-AP and AP options but the same principle would be at play. It would mean less options for students but I wonder if the payoff wouldn't be well worth it!

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