Creativity in Interdisciplinary Teaching: How We Used i2Flex in a Co-Teaching Framework

Creativity in Interdisciplinary Teaching: How We Used i2Flex in a Co-Teaching Framework

Caitlin R. Lewis (American Community Schools (ACS) Athens, Greece) and Margarita Gournaris (American Community Schools (ACS) Athens, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0267-8.ch018
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Abstract

We co-taught an interdisciplinary English and social studies class in 9th grade. Our class had very diverse ability levels. In order to differentiate instruction and engage all our students, we turned to the i2Flex methodology as a guide, and found tremendous success implementing it together with role-play and simulation. We found that incorporating Web 2.0 tools within our instructional approach increased student motivation. The ideas behind i2Flex guided us in changing our approach to instruction and lead us to creating a far more constructivist classroom. Student engagement and enjoyment improved, and we saw struggling student flourish.
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Introduction

True innovation requires unusual combinations. When we met for the first time in September of 2013, neither of us realized what innovations would come from the unorthodox combination of a thirty-one year veteran teacher at ACS and a U.S. public school teacher of five years working together to create a new interdisciplinary course.

I (Margarita) have taught at ACS Athens for my entire career, sponsoring Model United Nations, working on courses from ESL to IB history. I have, as the saying goes, done it all.

I (Caitlin) started teaching in a failing inner city public school in the southern U.S. After the school was taken over by outside governance, I chose to go to a rural high school and teach English there. After being deeply disturbed by the effects of No Child Left Behind—a sweeping piece of U.S. legislation which mandated that all students be proficient in core subjects by 2014–and the incessant usage of standardized testing, I decided it was time to find a school where I could do more than test preparation. A few months later, I was hired at ACS Athens.

The first year we worked together, we were asked to design a 9th grade honors “combo” course—a course that taught students both European history and an introduction to literature. All our students in this class had qualified to enter the honors program, so the need for differentiation was fairly minimal. After working together for a year and seeing how much more students seemed to gain from a co-taught interdisciplinary class, we were open to further innovations.

At the end of that school year, our principal approached us with a unique idea. He suggested that we teach the interdisciplinary class again, but this time, we would mix all ability levels together. Of course, students could still take the class for honors credit, but they would do so by doing extra work outside of class and by completing more challenging assessments in class. During class time itself, the room would be a mix of students taking the class for honors level, standard level, ESL, and special needs. Part of the impetus for the class was the desire of students who were not prepared for honors level to also be able to take an interdisciplinary class.

We had some initial concerns about the class: how would we cover the standards for all students? How would we challenge the students in honors without losing the students taking the class at the regular level? When the new format for the class was announced to the parents, several parents raised the same concerns. How was honors level going to be rigorous if these students were receiving the same classroom instruction as standard level? We even had one parent make quite a scene at our back-to-school night, loudly arguing that we were damaging the education of her son.

But despite these concerns, we went forward with the class, believing that we could find the innovative means necessary to differentiate instruction in such a blended environment.

That year, we had the following breakdown of students (split fairly evenly into two groups) (Table 1).

Table 1.
Student profile
TotalMaleFemaleHonorsStandardESLSpecial Needs
69373233361210

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