Problem Based Curriculum

Problem-based curriculum. The curriculum, accordingly, will be extensively problem-based, with the P&M course providing an explicit foundation in thinking skills and interfacing with the other curriculum areas as they draw on these skills. An example is the study of history via the problem-based approach reflected in the text by Kevin O'Reilly in which an issue is identified (e.g., worker dissatisfaction and strikes) and historical examples are then examined for what light they shed on the issue. Similarly, literature can be selected to coordinate with such issue-based themes, and student writing assignments can be coordinated with the theme. Science topics are particularly well-suited to a problem-based approach, and I provide some examples below.
I turn now to the P&M class itself. My proposal is that the class meet twice weekly in small sections that emphasize intellectual skill development and once weekly in a larger (possibly all-school) meeting having a theme focus.
Inquiry and argument skill development. The objective of the small-section classes will be to foster and offer practice in the core intellectual skills of inquiry and of argument. Inquiry work will intersect most directly with science and math classes, and argument work will intersect with humanities classes as well as science classes. We can choose whether to address both simultaneously (which would have the potential disadvantage of limiting class frequency for both to once per week and thereby risking fragmentation) or sequentially, e.g., in six-week-long blocks, one block focusing on inquiry and one on argument each semester. Both programs have been implemented successfully in past years with a sixth-grade age group at the Columbia University School for Children. Descriptions of the scope and pedagogy for each appear below. In addition, a number of P&M class periods each semester will be devoted to the “meta-curriculum” described next.
The meta-curriculum. At the meta level, addressed...