Productive teaching utilises integrated curriculum

Purposefully connected curriculum

The goal

Successful learners, confident & creative individuals and active & informed citizens

Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, MCEETYA, 2008

What is it?

Purposefully connected curriculum involves planning for teaching and learning that draws on two or three subjects within a learning area, or two or three learning areas or subjects… It is hoped that teachers and other curriculum leaders might consider purposefully connected curriculum as a planning option alongside the single curriculum approach. The latter approach refers to planning a teaching/learning unit which draws on one learning area or subject.

…Two conditions are essential for purposefully connected curriculum. First, a clear conceptual link (or links) needs to exist among the curricular area content descriptions connected in planning for teaching and learning. Second, the integrity of the curricular areas must be maintained. This refers to ensuring that the key purpose of the curricular area is not ‘watered down’ or lost as teaching and learning draws on more than one curricular area. Associated with maintaining the integrity of the curricular areas is the requirement that schools gather assessment data that indicates what students know and can do in specific curricular areas.
(Nayler, 2014, emphasis added)1

1 Nayler (2014) Enacting Australian Curriculum: Making connections for quality learning. Issues paper. Queensland Studies Authority.


We can build on conceptual links

…where overlapping or common concepts exist

…where concepts are complementary in a particular learning context


  1. Why connect two or three learning areas/subjects in one unit of work?
    There are philosophical reasons (e.g. knowledge is connected and dynamic). There are also pragmatic reasons given there are many learning areas/subjects that constitute the Australian Curriculum. As a result, connecting curricular areas makes sense for real-world learning and for logistical reasons.
  2. Given that the Australian Curriculum is written in learning areas and subjects, does that mean we have to enact or implement it in units with strict curriculum boundaries?
    No! The QSA [QCAA] paper shows how content descriptions from up to three learning areas or subjects can contribute to a conceptual link/s that can form the basis of a unit of work. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) invites schools to ‘…[draw] on integrated approaches where appropriate…’2
  3. Given that schools must assess and report student achievement in relation to specific learning areas and subjects, does that mean that schools must utilise only single-curricular area assessment tasks?
    No, see Nayler (2014) for details around authentic assessment tasks in which teachers gather specific assessment data on up to three learning areas or subjects. Also see Nayler (2014) for an outline of a possible assessment task related to the Year 6 example.

2 The Shape of the Australian Curriculum (2012), p 13.

QSA (20011a) Principles for effective planning including: Design principles related to purposefully connected curriculum:
1. high expectations for all students (with extracts from the QSA Equity Statement (2006) included in italics below)
identifying and minimising structural barriers to access and participation
acknowledging the diversity of students and each individual’s life circumstances, and the need for particular strategies which can enhance engagement and equitable outcomes among all students
acknowledging the relationship between the valued knowledge and the participation of students in society
 1. sound educational philosophy such as:
teaching and learning for deep knowledge and understandings
building connectedness to students’ lives and the world through engaging and meaningful learning contexts (applicable also to Principle for effective planning #4)
2. alignment of teaching and learning, and assessment and reporting  2. alignment of teaching and learning across two or three learning areas with assessment tasks, as well as practice that enables reporting of student achievement along learning area/subject lines.
 3. standards- and school-based assessment for learning  3. maintaining the integrity of each learning area and subject connected in teaching/learning unit.
 4. balance of informed prescription and teacher professional judgment.  4. practical solutions to the programming of the range of learning areas and subjects that comprise the Australian Curriculum.

Examples of BIG questions to drive purposefully connected curriculum

Who owns Australia? History English
How can we convince people to take action on the environmental issue of … ? Science English
How can we represent our community’s history through art? History Visual Arts
Was family life great during the Industrial Revolution? History HPE
Does it matter where my lamb comes from? Science Geography

Are you interested in using any of these questions? Do they align with the understandings and skills in the Australian Curriculum learning areas/subjects at your year level? When designing BIG questions start with the content descriptions—see Nayler (2014).

Planning in a connected curriculum approach is successful when students:

  • have opportunities to learn the knowledge, understanding and skills of the range of Australian Curriculum learning areas and subjects to which they are entitled
  • have the opportunities to explore issues, problems or phenomena in ways that are meaningful and related to the real-world, with such opportunities drawn from the content descriptions of the contributing learning areas and subjects
  • develop understandings, skills and important concepts in units driven by overarching questions that contextualise the relevant content descriptions and achievement standards
  • have opportunities to negotiate aspects of curriculum (e.g. specific topic or context) and assessment (e.g. mode to demonstrate understandings and skills) with levels and nature of negotiation varying according to their developmental or contextual needs.

Planning in a connected curriculum approach is successful when teachers:

  • identify conceptual links across learning areas and subjects, and use these to create a powerful overall question to drive the learning/teaching unit
  • are confident that a sound basis exists for the inclusion in one teaching/learning unit of content descriptions and portions of achievement standards from the contributing learning areas and subjects without the inclusion of what might be described as trivial integration
  • plan to gather assessment as and assessment of learning data related to the valued features of the contributing learning areas and subjects and to report such learning along learning area/subject lines
  • can be confident that the integrity of the contributing learning areas and subjects is retained with students prepared for learning area/subject specific understandings and skills required in subsequent years.
* See learning ajency resource: Design, enact & review: 3 key Qs, for information re: planning processes.
Also see Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority website at: for PowerPoint and video clip from QSA 2014 conference presentation, Making connections across the Australian Curriculum (Nayler).

Practical examples

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Integrated or ‘purposefully connected’ curriculum

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Watch the video Purposefully connected curriculum: Why?
Watch the video Purposefully connected curriculum: Identifying conceptual links

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