Strategies to Help Link Concepts Across Multiple Disciplines
Here are a few examples of how assessments may be constructed so that students can show their understanding of a concept in multiple content areas:
Examples of Products for a Unit Focused on the Concept of Freedom Conduct a rhetorical analysis about a speech or text from two different perspectives. Be sure to examine how the text promotes or limits freedom for a selected group (Mofield & Stambaugh, 2016a). (Note how students must justify a specific generalisation based on the concept of freedom, their understanding of a speech and their process of rhetorical analysis.)
• Draw an editorial cartoon or abstract illustration showing the principles delivered in an historical document. Include a written description to accompany your illustration that describes how it relates to a generalisation about freedom (Mofield & Stambaugh, 2016a).
Design a Formative Assessment Prompt and Include Rubric Guidelines One
example of a prompt for analysing text might be: What does the following document
Fig. 3 Concept organiser for power (Used with permission from Mofield and Stambaugh (2016b)
reveal about freedom? (Mofield & Stambaugh, 2016a). Figure 4 shows the rubric guidelines for the assessment of concept curricular goals.
Assess Student Learning as a Culminating End-of-Unit Product For example, students may be asked to respond to the following prompt: Which should be more valued, the individual or society? Choose four individuals from the unit (characters
Fig. 4 Rubric for assessing concept curricular goals (Used with permission from Mofield and Stambaugh (2016a)
or real people) and respond to the question from their point of view. Then, create a visual collage or multimedia movie to reflect their viewpoints. Incorporate abstract symbols, words, pictures and quotes about individuality, identity, conformity, society, belongingness, etc. Also turn in a written description of symbols used (from Mofield & Stambaugh, 2016c).
Similar ideas in other content areas can easily be constructed. A related example from a concept and problem-based science unit (see Cruz & Stambaugh, 2014) requires students to respond to the following question as a formative assessment after introducing the concept of systems: In the first lesson, we determined the effects of exposure of various elements (light, water, carbon dioxide) on plants. What happens if one of the elements of the plant system was removed (i.e. light, water, carbon dioxide)? What are the implications of removing that part of the system on plant life? Now consider content in another class you have taken (i.e. language arts, social studies, math). Select a system you have learned about and then link the parts of a system to it (e.g. inputs, outputs, boundaries, elements). How does the system in your other subject area content compare to the photosynthesis- respiration cycle?
As students progress through the unit, they link their own data gathered from scientific investigations to conceptual understandings about plants and systems.
In mathematics, similar ideas can be applied using generalisations about systems (or another concept). For example, students may examine the boundaries of number systems as related to equations, the impact of negative or fractional numbers on number systems or how different bases interact.
When curricula are designed in this way, significant achievement gains in students’ understanding of content, processes specific to a discipline and concepts are noted based on pre- and post-assessment data (Mofield & Stambaugh, 2016a, 2016b, 2016c; VanTassel-Baska & Stambaugh, 2009).