Designing Assignments Across Discipline

The challenge teachers face in integrating their course work across the disciplines is often a matter of coming up with the right questions. At Brimmer & May School, the faculty uses Bloom’s theory of the six levels of cognition- knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation-as they design tasks for students. The result is assignments like this one from a ninth-grade literature class:

“In all literature there is nothing that touches or resembles the Prologue. It is the concise portrait of an entire nation, high and low, old and young, male and female, lay and clerical, learned and ignorant, rogue and righteous, land and sea, town and country, but without extremes …. The tales the pilgrims tell come from all over Europe, many of them from the works of Chaucer’s near contemporaries. Some come from further afield, from the ancients, from the Orient. They exemplify the whole range of contemporary European imagination ….” (From “Chaucer’s Works,” by Neville Coghill, tr., CANTERBURY TALES (Penguin Books, 1984).

In each group follow the format of searching as stated below:

  1. Search for facts about the various people and how they fit into society. List them on a sheet of paper.
  2. Interpret the collection of facts and try to determine the expected role or behavior of each person.
  3. What does the Prologue tell you about society and human behavior?
  4. Do you see any patterns of this type of social condition in the art you have observed or the history you have read?
  5. If you were on a pilgrimage, what social statement would you be making?

“Not only are we crossing disciplines in the content of these questions, across art, history, and English,” says Guild, “but we are crossing them in skills as well. In math and science as well as in the humanities, we are practicing looking for patterns as a way of problem solving.”