The rationale outlines the focus of this curriculum program, and how it qualifies as an integrated curriculum/unit of work. The rationale makes mention of specific readings and curriculum content to support direction.
This integrated curriculum unit of work focuses on the Year 10 Religion module entitled ‘Working for Justice in Australia’. Forming part of the Stage 5 religion syllabus for schools in the Sydney Diocese, this unit aims to spark the fire of justice within students (Archdiocese of Sydney, 2006). As the curriculum document outlines, “learning is reflection and action based on experience”, and so, in teaching this module there are many opportunities to incorporate integrated and inquiry-based learning. As Anderson (2013) explains, integrated curriculum is an approach to education that that helps facilitate meaningful associations across subject matter. While this can be achieved in a number of different ways, this integrated unit of work will take the interdisciplinary approach (Anderson, 2013).
While it is envisioned that this unit of work will be taught in a traditional subject block layout, it uses the cross-curriculum priority of sustainability to incorporate learning from numerous subjects. By focusing on the overarching theme of sustainability and environmental justice as a central case study that frames the module content, this unit provides opportunities to draw on learning from other subjects. For example, in discussing and analysing the injustice of unsustainable living and its impacts on nature and society, students will be drawing on content already covered in the Stage 5 National Geography Syllabus under the focus areas of ‘Biomes and Food Security’, and ‘Environmental Change and Management’ (ACARA, 2015).
Additionally, in the process of creating their Social Justice Action Plan, students will be creating connections across subject areas (VanTassel-Baska & Wood, 2010). By asking students to include a budget in their plan, the unit of work also integrates elements of the core content area of ‘Personal Finance’ that sits within the current Commerce Syllabus (Board of Studies NSW, 2003). In designing the Social action plan assessment task that drives the direction of the unit, the exact type and form of social action that students propose is purposefully left open. It was envisioned that by doing this, the unit program will allow more cross-curriculum integration, by allowing students the freedom to work to their strengths. For example, technology students may decide to fundraise for an environmental charity by creating and selling sustainable products. Likewise, Drama and English students may propose to raise awareness about the issues of environmental sustainability with a school-wide Drama festival or creative writing competition.
Through the variety of activities that students will be lead through while studying this unit of work, they will be asked to use higher order thinking and processing skills. By the end of the unit they will have exhibited and built skills in all six of the general capabilities outlined in the Australian curriculum (ACARA, n.d). In enacting this integrated unit of work in the classroom, it is hoped that teachers will be able to help students experience the benefits proposed by VanTassel-Baska & Wood (2010), including better long-term learning and higher levels of creativity and motivation.