A blend or interdisciplinary collaboration of positive and negative space to achieve real-world success 🙂  (See above picture.)

As the Head of Health Education at Waimea College I am aware that the amount and depth of connections with the community is quite limited when compared to my primary colleagues. I am an active Board of Trustee member for Hope Primary School and thus am in awe of the close relationship that the institution has with the surrounding community.

The connections I have as a secondary teacher are outlined in the diagram below. There is a warm sense of intra-department connection born out of the shared experience of teaching the same levels of Health and Physical Education. Team teaching and sharing facilities when it is wet also increases levels of communication, cooperation and collaboration. This professional environment is one in which members of the department feel supported and valued in an otherwise pressured job.

making connections.png

The professional culture of the school has often been commented on by new teachers, relief teachers and visiting educationalists as one that is characterised by warmth, humor and with a view to the future. It is no accident that Waimea College has hosted Mindlab for this reason. Morning briefings are more of a logistic focus and result in increased awareness and understanding. The staff meetings, professional development meetings and committee meetings involve greater levels of interaction and reflection.

The interdisciplinary area which will be the subject of this post is the new Outdoor Leadership course I am designing as part of our schools new enrichment focus on our junior students. The new modules will be trialed in 2018 for the first time. The basis of these new courses is to enrich the students through a more interdisciplinary approach.

This new focus is more in keeping with the 21st century approach to learning. Next Tuesday will involve a meeting of three people (Hamish, Peter & myself) from 3 different departments to collaborate together to produce an interdisciplinary unit using the medium of Outdoor Leadership to best benefit our year 9 students next year. Each participant is bringing ideas to improve on the basic structure, lesson topics and activities that I have put together to date. It is the blending of our ideas that will produce the best results. The teacher will then have the role (visionary) to guide promoting higher levels of integration, Mathison and Freeman, (1997). We will coordinate elements of the different subjects and use an experiential approach to capture the students curiosity and promote their success.


The use of activities viewed through an “Interdisciplinary lens” can foster outcomes for students which create further relevance to further learning such as creativity, collaboration, deeper learning and critical thinking, (Lacoe Ed, 2014). In this way, elements of the “future ready” (Sharples et al. 2016) responsibility of schools for their students  can be realised.

Waimea College has a mission statement to promote life-long learning. Jones (2009) proposes that interdisciplinary learning, because of its nature, promotes life-long learning skills. Many facets of life entail good collaboration, creativity and deeper thinking which are the 21st century skills that the interdisciplinary models described by Mathison and Freeman (1997) seek to produce. I look forward to this modules success in 2018.

by Marcus Swain


Jones, C. (2009). Interdisciplinary approach – Advantages, disadvantages, and the future benefits of interdisciplinary studies. ESSAI7 (26), 76-81. Retrieved from

 Lacoe Edu (2014, Oct 24) Interdisciplinary Learning . Retrieved from

 Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997. Retrieved from

Sharples, M., de Roock , R., Ferguson, R., Gaved, M., Herodotou, C., Koh, E., Kukulska-Hulme, A., Looi,C-K, McAndrew, P., Rienties, B., Weller, M., Wong, L. H. (2016). Innovating Pedagogy 2016: Open University Innovation Report 5. Milton Keynes: The Open University. Retrieved from



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