Mix subjects, the measure that came from the pandemic and will stay in school

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Seen from the outside, it is the typical austere classroom of public education with its green desks, neon lights, bars on the windows, a traditional blackboard and a projector, adapted to anticovid measures: distance between tables, face masks and cross current. What happens inside is, however, out of the ordinary.

The 15 1st B students of the Pare Vitòria Institute in Alcoi are not in Spanish or Valencian class, but rather in the “Linguistic Area”, in which both languages ​​are interspersed while teacher Yasmina Youfi asks them to read and comment on poems from Idea Vilariño, Gloria Fuertes and Alfonsina Storni and texts about Isabel Clara-Simó, and that they search their tablets for definitions in the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy . The students also do not have separate classes in Mathematics and Technology, but rather a domain in which both subjects are mixed. The same happens with History and Ethical Values.

The pedagogical formula consisting of merging two or three subjects in the same class makes students relate knowledge of different disciplines and that their learning is more applied and less abstract, what in educational jargon is called work by competences. Until now it was used basically in groups of curricular diversification, that is, of students who are doing poorly and those who adapt the contents. But this course has been extended to more than 50,000 students in ordinary classes at public centers in five autonomous communities: the Valencian Community (the one that practices it the most), Galicia, Aragon, the Balearic Islands and Cantabria.

The system has been promoted as an extraordinary measure in the first year of ESO to mitigate the loss of learning caused by the pandemic. But the new educational law contemplates it in a general way, regardless of the covid, and from September it can be used to organize the first three years of secondary school.

A different link

In August, Youfi and her two colleagues from Ámbito Lingüístico in Alcoi were skeptical. After six months of class, however, they have changed their minds. “The structure of Spanish and Valencian is very similar. By giving them together we avoid repeating certain things or using different terminology, something that usually happens when they are studied separately, which confuses the students. And at the same time we emphasize linguistic interferences, explaining what is different in one language and another ”, affirms professor Rosa Delhom. “By having fewer teachers,” continues his partner, Gemma Pérez, “the children have adapted much better in the transition from primary to secondary. And as we spend seven hours a week with them, a bond has been created that other years did not exist ”.

Marc, 12, who just finished class with Youfi, agrees: “The change from school to high school has not been as big as I expected and I think it was because of this in the fields. In elementary school we had everything with the same tutor, except Music, Physical Education and English. And here, having several subjects with the same teachers, it is less noticeable, “he says.

Mathematical instruments

Mathematics, continues Emilia Soriano, who teaches a Scientific-Technical Area at the Font de Sant Lluís Institute in Valencia, is normally used in her class “as a tool”, although it is necessary to dedicate certain sessions to explaining key content. These days his students are calculating the measurements of the garden they are building, and then they will work on the decimals and fractions to create a budget with everything they must buy to set it up.

The students of Lucía Puchalt, who teaches Mathematics combined with Biology, are measuring how the roots of seeds that they planted in transparent containers grow, drawing graphs of their development, comparing the evolution in conditions of exposure to light and dark, making statistics with the daily averages … “They are having a basic mathematics training, which corresponds to their level, but applied. It’s not that I tell you a graph and that’s it, “he says.

More work and cooperation

Learning by areas requires, the dozen teachers consulted for this report coincide, more work than the traditional system, high cooperation between the departments involved and resources. “Although we have more teachers than other years, we do not have enough hours of coordination to be able to get the most out of it,” says Ramón Veiga, director of the IES Felix Muriel de Rianxo, in A Coruña, who believes, however, that learning by scopes has come to its center “to stay”. “The Physics teacher has to teach Biology, the Language and Literature teacher has to give a bit of History …”, says Mercedes García, general director of Educational Innovation of Cantabria. “It forces us to rethink the teaching practice, and it is complex, because we have very fragmented learning, but in the long run it makes it richer,” he continues.

The formula is not equivalent to project work, although it can be combined with it, and also with co-teaching (two teachers at the same time in the classroom). The autonomy where it has acquired the most strength is, by far, the Valencian Community, in which all the groups of the first year of ESO of the 671 public and subsidized centers have to group six subjects in two or three areas, and that next year will extend the system to seconds. “At first, the opinion of the directors was very divided. Let’s say that a third were in favor, a third were against and another third did not decide ”, points out Antoni Picornell, president of the Valencian association of directors,“ but now the general opinion is that it is being positive or very positive ”.

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