The Effects of Integrated Curricula on Young Adolescent Problem-Solving


This study examines the effects of a four-week interdisciplinary unit on students' problem-solving ability. A critical review of both the popular and research literature led to the development and conduct of this experimental study which, in turn, raises new questions regarding integrated approaches to teaching and learning.

Interdisciplinary teaching has become an integral component of the middle level philosophy since the mid-1960s and is considered by many to be the single most distinguishing feature separating middle schools from more traditional junior high schools. While a good deal of useful information regarding the design of integrated curricula and the implementation of interdisciplinary units (as well as teacher teaming experiences) pervade the literature, less empirical evidence regarding student achievement or cognitive processes is found.

While the majority of studies have concentrated on teachers' and students' affect and on the learning environment, some data have led researchers to believe that integrated teaching and learning may hold promise for enhancing student problem-solving ability. This latter contention is examined, here. Six hundred twenty-eight students in four different midwestern school districts were taught an interdisciplinary unit by six teams of teachers during the 1992–93 academic school year.

Students expressed interest and excitement in the unit, viewing the activities as fun and not routine. Residual analyses of the pre-post-test scores indicate that students identified as incipient formal operational thinkers made significant gains in their problem-solving ability while other students. Concrete thinkers' gains were much less dramatic.


Reading, Foundations, and Technology

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Research in Middle Level Education Quarterly