Interdisciplinary Project Planning Framework

When I was at TCEA last week, a teacher approached me after one of my sessions to ask if I had ever written about my experience planning interdisciplinary projects. I realized that I had not written specifically about the process of planning a project with teachers who taught other subject areas. So, I wanted to share the framework that my teaching team (English, history, and science) used when planning large scale interdisciplinary projects.

Once we had agreed on these eight aspects of the project–unifying theme or question, objectives, standards, structure, products, rubrics, division of labor, and timeline, we were able to dive into the details.

We moved through a checklist of items that we wanted to consider as a team before beginning a big interdisciplinary project. We talked about building student agency into the various parts of the project to increase student engagement and motivation. We discussed strategies for collecting formative assessment data to ensure we knew what support students needed from us as they worked. We agreed on a regular conferencing strategy and schedule to ensure that one of us was making time to check in with students each week during the project to discuss their progress. Finally, we discussed strategies for connecting students with an authentic audience to ensure they were motivated to do their best work. Sometimes projects were presented in front of a panel of experts, parents, and peers. Other times we hosted an exhibition and invited community members.

Technology can simplify the planning process for teams of teachers. We complemented our in-person planning sessions with asynchronous work online using Google’s shared drive feature. Instead of sharing individual documents, our shared drive provided us with a virtual storage bucket for our resources that we all had access to at any time.

I would suggest teams of teachers create a shared drive then create a folder in that shared drive for each large-scale project.

Below is a planning template that teaching teams can copy into their shared drive and use to begin the planning process for an interdisciplinary project.

bit.ly/interdisciplinaryproject

I hope this framework, checklist, and planning document help other teams of teachers to successfully collaborate on interdisciplinary projects! If you work with other teachers to plan projects and have tips, suggestions, or resources you would like to share, please take a moment to post a comment!

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Free Resource: Personalization, Agency, Authenticity, Connectivity, and Creativity (PAACC) Playbook

In the book, Blended Learning in Action, my co-authors (Tiffany Wycoff and Jason Green) and I created the PAACC Hallmarks of Effective Practice as a guide to ensure that blended learning puts students at the center of learning and helps them to develop future-ready skills. We think of the PAACC framework as a compass so that as we implement blended practices, we are not focused on the models or tools but rather the “why” behind blended learning.

Tiffany and the LINC team recently shared a PAACC Playbook to help teachers put PAACC practices into action in the classroom. The 27-page free PAACC playbook is a resource designed to help transform classrooms into student-centered, innovative learning spaces that meet the needs of today’s students. 

The Playbook contains a rich set of resources, strategies, and suggested tools aligned to each area of the PAACC hallmarks of effective and innovative instructional practices: Personalization, Agency, Authenticity, Connectivity, and Creativity (PAACC). 

By aligning lessons and project units to the PAACC framework, teachers can implement learning experiences with the confidence that they are hitting the personalization target. Get a free copy at https://linclearning.com/download-the-paacc-framework-playbook.

I know Tiffany, Jason and the rest of the team at LINC would love to hear your feedback! Feel free to email them at info@linclearning.com or connect with them on Twitter @linc_PD to share your thoughts.

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Drive Deeper Thinking in Math: Designing an Error Analysis Station

Too many students view mistakes as a bad thing to be avoided. The truth is that mistakes are inevitable. We need to start treating these moments as opportunities to learn instead of something to be ashamed of. In this post, Sarah Dunn, a high school math teacher, shares the strategy she uses to get students thinking critically about mathematical mistakes.

In mathematics, there is so much room for error. Record the numbers for the answer backward. Use the exponent inappropriately. Forget to distribute the negative. These mistakes are common and easy to make. I think it’s powerful for students to practice recognizing errors. 

Making mistakes is how students learn. In fact, I tell my students not to erase their errors. Instead, I have them circle their mistakes and explain what they did wrong. The practice of allowing students to identify errors and think critically about what led to those errors can help them to avoid making those same mistakes in the future. It also normalizes mistakes. They are not something to be ashamed of. They are something to learn from. 

It also normalizes mistakes. They are not something to be ashamed of. They are something to learn from. 

In a previous post, I wrote about how to design kinesthetic math stations. I encouraged teachers to design activities that would help students to physically engage with mathematical concepts. But, let’s be honest – a lot of learning still needs to happen in the classroom. In the past, I would have made my offline station a practice worksheet. The students would get the necessary practice for the unit, and I would provide them with an answer key on Schoology. However, during a station rotation lesson, my offline error analysis station typically follows my kinesthetic station. My students love the kinesthetic station, so I wanted to follow that station with an activity that would maintain their interest. How could I maintain this high level of engagement in other stations? Working in pairs on a worksheet simply would not yield the level of engagement I was craving. So, I challenged myself to design a more dynamic offline station.

Rather than give them a practice worksheet about circles, right triangles or volume, I challenge the students to really think critically. I create seven or eight problems and each problem contains an error or multiple errors. The students are responsible for identifying and describing the errors, then they make the necessary corrections. The errors range from calculation based mistakes to using the wrong formula. In some cases, I just make up the math. In every case, I do my best to make all my answers believable. 

For this station, the desks are set up to resemble speed dating. With the speed dating set up, the students can bounce questions off of one another and engage in discussion. The students collaborate with their partners to determine where the errors are in the problems and discuss the best strategy for fixing them. Mistakes help drive conversations about mathematical concepts and allows the students to help each other. 

How do I determine what kind of errors to present to the students? Generally, I use common errors I have seen my students make in the past. Additionally, I think about the misconceptions students have about the mathematics in question. When I first started with this station, the students were not looking at the problems with a critical eye. For example, I had given the students an arc length problem and then done all the correct work for a sector area problem. 

I have also noticed that students do not read the full question. As a result, they struggle to find the error. But, not reading the questions carefully is a common mistake made in mathematics. The habit of taking time to ‘read the full question’ is not only important in our math class, but also on the SAT. My students learn the value of reading the entire question as they engage in this error analysis station, which helps them when they sit down to take the SAT in spring.

I am still working to perfect this station. In fact, a learning support coach suggested bringing back topics from other units, or even previous courses. So, as I progress through the course, I spiral back to problems from previous units to keep those mathematical concepts fresh for the students. There are so many topics covered on the final exam and creating a space for students to revisit the concepts we have previously covered is important.

The students need time to practice applying specific concepts. But, they also need to be assessed on their understanding of those concepts. The error analysis station ties the application and assessment together. If there are ideas the students do not understand as they work through the error analysis tasks, this station allows them to engage in a productive conversation with a peer about the content. In math, cultivating a productive conversation is not always an easy task. But, getting students to explain math to one another in their own words…that’s the whole point!


Sarah Dunn is a high school math teacher and digital teacher leader in a vocational-technical school district in Wilmington, Delaware. She has flipped the instruction of the content to incorporate more hands-on and blended learning activities. In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her husband and two daughters.

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