James Beane,  Curriculum Integration, Designing the Core of Democratic Education

Questioning Strategy

Curriculum Integration - designing the core of democratic education, James Beane,1997, Teachers College Press, ISBN: 080773683X   http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/080773683X/qid=996122432/sr=2-1/103-8281193-5316663 

Figure 1.1 Schematic Web for Curriculum Integration, (p. 11), can be used here to visualize topic generation.

"In curriculum integration, planning begins with a central theme and proceeds outward through identification of big ideas or concepts related to the theme and activities that might be used to explore them" (p. 10). In associating this web to PBL topic generation we can see the narrowing of the focus of topics of study moving from a broad and generalized thematic base. A secondary level of topic generation, refining and concentrating the focus even more, may make itself known through student inquiry. In this scheme, activities represent Phase III, Collect, of our Sequence.

On page 56, Beane displays Figure 4.3 Conflict and Violence Unit: Concept Web, Sample Questions, and Sample Activities. This serves as an example of generation and refinement of a topic. The sample questions and activities also serve as examples for PBL.

Sample Questions Sample Activities
When will gang violence stop? Interview gang members to find out why they belong to a gang
Will there ever be world peace? Research reasons for killing and determine what would have to happen to stop it.
What happens in death camps? Interview someone who was in a death camp.
Who shot JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr.? Find out where death camps are today and research why they exist.
Will we win the "war" on illegal drugs? Research rates and causes of different kinds of abuse.
Will there ever be enough for all to survive? Write a story about how the world might end.
Why do people hurt/kill each other? Identify current wars and conflicts on the globe.
When/How will the world end? Research local trend statistics on various types of crime and make forecasts about future problems an solutions.

Questioning Strategy

Read the following excerpt from Curriculum Integration (pp.50-52) to gain an understanding of this process in action. This strategy is offered here as applicable to PBL theme generation.

    "As discussed in chapter 1, the idea of planning with young people is very important in creating an integrated curriculum. Connecting new experiences to previous ones and personally contextualizing knowledge must sooner or later involve direct participation by young people themselves. Moreover, bringing democracy to life in the classroom requires that students have a genuine say in the curriculum and that their say count for something.

   "There are many ways in which young people might be involved in planning their curriculum. For example, teachers might survey students to determine questions and concerns that suggest themes. Or they might select a problem-centered theme and then involve students in identifying questions and related activities within the theme. Such was the case of a ninth-grade teacher whose invitation to suggest questions for a unit on cultures drew 300 responses. On the other hand, a first grade teacher developed a year-long environmental studies project based on one student's question about where the garbage in the school dumpster went after the dumpster was full.

   "However, many teachers who use the curriculum design described earlier engage young people in a collaborative planning process that involves two questions: "What questions or concerns do you have about yourself?" and "What questions or concerns do you have about the world?" After students write their questions individually, small groups are formed to find questions that are shared by individuals within the group (examples of self questions and world questions). The group then tries to identify organizing centers or themes that use both self and world questions (examples)."