Cross-Curricular Approaches

Secondary Schools currently use the NCEA system for assessment in NZ. We also use the Silo’s in that each subject is taught in that class for that period with that teacher.  I think this is old and outdated and needs to change. The current use of BYOD, as well as how jobs in the real world work with a combination of skills, tasks and collaboration need to become the norm in Secondary Schools.

Blog Crosscurrciular

Taken from

The change in education from the teacher-directed to student-centred learning is very different to how the majority of the world were taught. It is this “unknown”, “it worked fine for me” attitude that needs confronting and shown that there are positive outcomes for student-centred learning. One of the easier ways this could be done (apart from a HUGE timetable overhaul) would be to have cross-curricular or interdisciplinary courses. The image below shows how I think an Agriculture course could be used to incorporate many different curriculum fields.

Cross curricular map

Created using

Farming in NZ- How and where they grow primary industries, growing plants in class and then using them in a planned meal, budgeting the meal costs etc as if it were a restaurant. The current assessment in Agriculture is AS909160 – Demonstrate knowledge of the impact on the environment of primary production management practices.  This could easily be linked to AS91009-  Demonstrate geographic understanding of the sustainable use of an environment, which could also be linked to Mathematics- AS91027, Apply algebraic procedures in solving problems (fences, posts, area etc). The students could have to design an art/techonology stakeholder logo request, or an English written piece. There is no limit to how or where these cross-curricular assessments could occur. It could also allow for different levels to be taught within that course. It presents many opportunities for students to learn in real world contexts- all subjects within that one context.


One of the challenges I see is the time needed for staff to collaborate and work together. It would need support from SLT and collaboration between departments. They would need time to work out which content will fit together well, how the links and assessments would work together to produce maximum credits for the work the students do. It would need Professional Development to ensure the programme and teachers are set up for success.  Mulligan and Kuban (2015) found that for successful interdisciplinary collaboration there needed to be favorable attitudes and personality qualities toward interdisciplinary engagement and that the common goals were determined between the involved parties. It may make it easier to allow teachers that want to engage in this type of learning, to opt in and to pave the way for those late adopters and laggards.

I see this as one of the ways forward for education. The Secondary Schools: Pathways for future education, training and employment report which looked at ERO data found that the 10most effective schools have processes and practices that encouraged the individualisation of student pathways, a school curriculum that was effective for a large majority of the students enrolled at the school and an extensive range of vocational and academic options (ERO, 2013). The advantage of cross curricular units would mean that the students could effectively choose which contexts they are interested in. Instead of running science and math in the timetable line, it could be a choice between Farming in New Zealand, Natural Disasters or The Human Body. Within those broad contexts, many subjects would be taught and credits offered within that context.

Education is changing- we need to embrace these changes and reflect on how we can provide better learning opportunities for our students. We need to provide them with life-long learning skills and 21st century learner skills, to give them the best chance of success in this ever increasing digital/technological world. Maybe one of the answers is interdisciplinary courses.


MacLeod Mulligan, L., & Kuban, A. (2015). A Conceptual Model for Interdisciplinary Collaboration | ACRLog. Retrieved 2 November 2017, from



Education Review Office. (2013). Retrieved 3 November 2017, from




Author: Rebecca

I am a teacher in a South Island secondary boys school. I have been teaching for 13years (with a bit of maternity leave). I can teach Science, Agriculture, Aquaculture and Maths. I love teaching and enjoy building relationships with my students.

2 thoughts on “Cross-Curricular Approaches”

  1. Like your thinking, Rebecca. Being an applied Science, just so much could be incorporated into setting up a course like this. or under anything you want, there is just so much stuff out there to choose from. A few (Quite a few now) we set up or Ag students at Year 12 and 13 to do Primary ITO Ag, and then take DTY so they could learn building skills and FTY so they could learn to cook and look after themselves and be ready to leave school and go and live by themselves on farms. Now encouraging accounting – but your idea takes this so many steps further, and yes I think it is the way of the future. Why would I retire??? It is all too exciting. But you are right about time!!


    1. You would love the Mindlab course! Its been an eye opening, engaging and forward thinking way to look at education. I really wanted to put a different Primary ITO into our Yr13 AGH course, but its so expensive. Im trying to find some others so that we can get a few accredited at the same time.


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