Islamic School Curriculum that is Transdisciplinary & Conceptual?
By Rasha El-Haggan
Ernest Boyer argues in the Making the PYP Happen,
“To be truly educated, a student must also make connections across the disciplines, discover ways to integrate the separate subjects, and ultimately relate what they learn to life” (Making the PYP Happen, 2009, p. 11).
In a learner-centered environment, the subjects of English, Math, Science, Social Studies, Qur’an, Islamic Studies, Arabic, and Art should be taught in a transdisciplinary way. In order for students to make relevance of the verses they are learning in the Quran, they need to see them reflected in their Science, Social Studies, and English classes.
For example, if students are studying the larger concept of “leadership,” then an interdisciplinary study might involve the following concepts in each subject:
- In Social Studies they might explore how decisions are made in government, what qualities of leadership are exhibited by the President of the United States and our local/national house of representatives.
- In Islamic Studies, they might explore the leadership qualities of Prophet Muhammad PBUH as is described in Surat Al Tawbah and Surat Al Qalam.
- In Arabic, they might learn vocabulary related to the concept of leadership such as Qa’id.
- In Fiqh Studies, they might explore how to lead prayer with Khushu’ and the responsibilities of an Imam in a masjid.
In this manner, students are not just exploring the concept Leadership in one discipline, but they are exploring it in all their classes, providing an in-depth, relevant, engaging, and rigorous exploration of the concept.
Another example of a transdisciplinary model is when 2nd graders are exploring “financial literacy.”
- In Math, they might learn how to count, add, and subtract money.
- In Social Studies, they might explore how we make economic choices to meet our needs and wants. They might further explore the concept of produces and consumers and how technology influences the economy.
- In the Qur’an they might study Surat Al-Mutafifeen and explore the Islamic ethics behind buying and selling in a market.
- In Arabic class, they might setup an Arabic restaurant or Marketplace and learn how to ask for things they want, how to pay for them, and how to ask how much something costs.
- In Art, they might explore how paper money and coins are designed. They might even design their own coin or dollar.
In this way, students are making connections to economics from across the disciplines, and the education a student is receiving is truly transdisciplinary.
In short, transdisciplinary learning helps students answer the age-old question of “why do I have to learn this?” By connecting disciplines and making learning relevant to a student, the question is inherently answered in the classroom without the student having to ask.