NOTE: This report is part of a larger article, Action Research: Reseeing Learning and Rethinking Practice in the LOTE Classroom, published by the LOTE Center for Educator Development. Please access the main page for full text and copyright information.

Integrative Teaching

Cesiah Boryczka, Northside ISD

Purpose of the Study

For decades, the pattern of learning a language has been to focus on four basic skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. More recently, foreign language teachers also focus on other competencies, namely, the “5 Cs”: Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities. The traditional, four basic skills do not stand alone. Listening, speaking, reading, and writing are essential to communication, but students are also expected to learn about and experience other cultures, use the new language to connect to other disciplines, and gain a deeper understanding of their own language and culture as they become active participants in the different celebrations of the community. Studies have concluded that, when students see the connections in the different disciplines of their course work, their learning is empowered across the curriculum. As part of educational reform in the core areas, interdisciplinary instruction and integrated curricula have been widely used. I believe that International Languages teachers can organize units of instruction to establish collaboration and build visibility and support among their colleagues, as well as provide the best opportunity for intellectual growth to the students.

The purpose of the study was to examine the effect of interdisciplinary teaching on student performance as evidenced in the end product (poem), student/teacher satisfaction, and attitude. I sought to learn how students perceive and react to the professional interaction and collaboration between their Spanish teacher and her colleague, an English teacher, as they teamed to introduce a unit of poetry. A second goal was to engage the students themselves in the development of the lesson to determine whether or not this procedure is effective or ineffective.

Research Questions

My project was designed to answer the following question: What will be the effect of an interdisciplinary teaching unit on students’ performance as evidenced by the end product (an original poem), on student/teacher satisfaction, and on attitudes?

Data Collection and Findings

To gather information on the effects of this interdisciplinary approach, I collaborated with an English teacher in my school to develop a poetry unit. I also examined the students’ final products and the results of a survey questioning their attitudes about the unit. To begin, the students were introduced to major poets of Spain and Latin America, first researching them in the library, followed by an analysis of their poetry. Students developed an awareness and understanding of poetry and poetic figures through a variety of activities such as talking with parents and grandparents about childhood rhymes and songs, creating visuals to represent the songs, studying odes and poems by famous authors, etc. On day three of the unit, the English teacher taught a lesson on odes in which students read works by Neruda-Esque, discussed their characteristics, brainstormed topics and structural elements, and did a creative writing assignment. On day five, she returned to help students revise their original odes and demonstrate what they had learned by presenting them to the class. [Footnote: The poems have been published on the Warren High School Web site under International Languages (Mrs. Cesiah Boryczka). La Comunidad, the student newspaper of Communications Arts High School also published some of the poems.]

The 22 students had different levels of experience and proficiency in Spanish. Two were recent immigrants from Mexico who spoke little or no English, 4 were of Mexican parents and their first language was Spanish, 2 were white-Anglo, 3 were African-American, 11 were Mexican-American. Consequently, to avoid discouragement in the less proficient learner, I teamed them with the more proficient students during the cooperative activities. For each activity inside and outside of the classroom, the students were provided with the objectives and expectations which enabled them to set realistic goals for class participation.

For the end product (the ode), the students had the freedom to choose the topic or theme reflecting their interest which, in turn, increased their satisfaction and motivated them to achieve their goal. I felt the end product was a success because all 22 students created an ode, even the few who felt they had wasted their time. The brainstorming and discussion of themes engaged the students in activities that were not superficial. Instead, they empowered the students and gave them the confidence to succeed. It is not easy for students to show their feelings and emotions. They felt vulnerable, they took risks, and their efforts appear in the final product. The products reflect both their satisfaction and my satisfaction as a teacher.

Other evidence gathered for the research included the student survey mentioned above. The Student Feedback Form consisted of two sections. The first was a set of ten statements that aimed to determine student attitudes toward interdisciplinary teaching and to find out if students perceived a difference in the manner the subject matter was delivered. Students were asked to rate each statement on a scale of 1-5 (least important to most important). Results for categories 1 and 2 and categories 4 and 5 were combined and numbers were rounded for reporting purposes in the following chart.

Survey Question


Integrative teaching provided an environment that encouraged my creativity. 5% 36% 59%
Integrative teaching encouraged my intellectual curiosity. 19% 36% 46%
The method of instruction enabled me to be aware of the collaboration of my teacher with her colleague/s. (One student did not respond.) 14% 32%


I felt comfortable with this method of instruction. 14% 32% 55%
Keeping the dialectical notes helped me understand the material. (One student did not respond.) 54% 14% 27%
I learned new vocabulary, and I can apply what I learned in my other classes and/or the community.(One student did not respond.) 5% 36% 54%
The teacher’s instructions were clear, and the instructions on the materials and activities were clear. 10% 27% 63%
I had enough time to do the activities, and I was provided a variety of opportunities to be evaluated fairly. 5% 14% 82%
I observed similarities and/or differences between my own culture and the culture I am studying. (Five students did not respond.) 0% 41% 36%
I achieved a high level of satisfaction. 5% 36% 59%

The second section of the Student Feedback Form encouraged the students to express their opinions in response to three statements concerning whether or not they liked the activities, the effectiveness of the activities on their understanding of the material, and how they felt they had benefited. When asked to explain why they liked these activities or not, students commented: “I enjoyed writing about my interests,” “I got to do something I enjoyed,” “Allowed to open doors of creativity,” “Chance to express my thoughts,” “It is not book work,” and “Enjoyed the poetry.” Two students had less positive responses: “I do not like poetry” and “Did not teach me anything new.” Student responses to the second statement indicated that the activity had increased their understanding of new vocabulary, how to express their feelings, and similarities between Spanish and English. One student said, “It did not increase my understanding of anything.” The final item asked learners to complete the sentence This activity increased my ability to... Answers included: “Explore different feelings of poetry,” “Be open minded,” “Understand poetry of another language and culture,” “Have more imagination,” and “I disliked it. I did not learn any more Spanish than when I started.”

Even though the students were apprehensive at the beginning of the project, from the responses to the statements of the survey, it is obvious that most were pleased with their performance and had positive views on the benefits of interdisciplinary teaching. They felt comfortable with the collaboration of the teachers, although a few students expressed dissatisfaction (“A waste of our time”). A possible explanation is that studying poetry reminded the native speakers of their own experience and failure in an English course.

Plan of Action

I will give a presentation on interdisciplinary teaching for my district in the month of June, and I am ready to work with the art teacher on a fascinating unit on the Mexican muralists. I am also participating in a professional development program in my district, a 40-hour computer course conducted with the collaboration of two corporations. This program works on the premise that technology is here to enhance our teaching. As part of the program, I will create units and lesson plans that are interdisciplinary in nature and provide ample opportunities to collaborate with other disciplines.

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