Subjects and Dot-Connecting

Wednesday 07 Nov

Have you ever stopped to think about how formal education was established? And why learning was broken into subjects? And why, over time, we’ve made it appear that literacy, numeracy, making and creating are mutually exclusive? And how subjects seem to have developed into concepts that we hold onto dearly, despite the fact that in our daily personal and working lives, we rarely use specific subject matter in isolation?

It’s an interesting talking point.

We, as educators, have a long history of very effectively teaching dots. But what support structures have we put in place to guide children towards connecting these dots? Dot-connecting happens naturally in organic learning. However, in the formal educational setting – a place in which subjects have been introduced – dot-connecting has not been seen as an essential educational requirement, traditionally-speaking. In fact, the standards-and-testing movement has resulted in a society that regards individual subjects (the dots, or basic knowledge) as more important than interdisciplinary teaching (connecting the dots, or applying the knowledge). I question: what is the point of knowing something if we don’t have the skills to apply this knowledge? Have we become a society that wants our children to study what’s easy to test, instead of what’s important to learn?

One positive way forward is to borrow and combine ideas from different fields of study.

At Living Faith we will often make reference to subjects such as Maths and English because that is how learning is arranged in the Australian Curriculum. This helps us to ensure, from an administrative perspective, that we are ‘ticking all the boxes’. However, you will notice occasions where traditional subjects are combined in order to foster dot-connecting. Project Based Learning (PBL) is a classic example. Have you ever thought about exactly how many traditional subjects are incorporated into one semester of PBL? If you stop to think about it, it may make your head spin! (It would be remiss of me to not offer a massive shout-out to our teachers right now, who so effectively combine traditional subjects to create inspiring dot-connecting learning experiences for our students.) Let me leave you with a thought from educationalist and school leader, David Geurin: ‘Learning should involve consuming AND creating. It’s important to learn new content (consuming) and then do something with it (creating). Teach students how to take information, ideas and understanding and remix it to create something new.’

- Jane Mueller, Principal