In 2021/2022, Holistic Think Tank allocated funds in the amount of $300,000 USD towards the goal of transforming current education methods and practices by devising the Interdisciplinary Subject (IDS) to be taught at schools worldwide.

The contest was won by three teams, which received grant money to develop the curriculum of Interdisciplinary Subject: The University of Sheffield (UK), Human Restoration Project (US) and The Fab Foundation (US).

In March 2023, the second phase of the grant program was launched.  Within its framework, the University of Sheffield and the Human Restoration Project would receive $75,000 each for developing and promoting the idea of Interdisciplinary Subject (IDS) worldwide (more here.)

New approach to education
The grant contest was announced following the results of desk research conducted by the HTT research team. The key competencies that were the starting point for the grant teams were also the basis for our field study entitled “What school should teach – a phenomenography of school environment”.
Based on the insights we gained from the project, we were able to list the areas which should be taught in schools and the resultant key competencies that students need to master. They are included on the “What school ought to teach list” (WSOT). The list included, among other things, ten areas that we see as an answer to the present-day, real-world needs of students. They were: facing challenges, functioning in relation with the world, nature and your own body, the concept of learning and teaching, functioning in society, aesthetics and cultural education, functioning in diversity, functioning in relation with the state, entrepreneurship, interpersonal communication and self-development. Our desk research laid out the challenge and we wanted the best organizations to take it on. That’s why we announced a grant contest on the best interdisciplinary subject – one which would help students develop, shape and strengthen these key skills. We are firm in the conviction that its results will have the potential to change education all over the world.

Trying to find “the culprit” we could blame for the current, sorry state of education is futile. In many places the world over, education continues to serve primarily the needs of the labor market. Thus, it completely overlooks anything and everything to do with the art of harmonious life in society, including such skills as effective communication and problem resolving. The obvious challenge extends way beyond mere changes in curriculum. Teachers need effective tools with which to efficiently transmit these (and many other) key competencies to their students. In our team, we believe that an attractive, feasible solution lies in creating a new Interdisciplinary Subject (“IDS”). Based on the holistic principles of integrating separate methods of teaching “academic subjects” and drawing broadly from the world at large, such a novel Interdisciplinary Subject should serve as a practical means of implementing the relevant principles and educating K-12 (or equivalent) students in a radically new, more promising way.

Diagnosis that has to start the change
Our field research indicated that, on balance, too many educational institutions worldwide tend to miseducate children and teenagers by using methods, skills and knowledge wildly out of touch with the realities of the 21st-century. Such outdated, inefficient and sometimes outright counterproductive methods include, among other things: rote learning, forcing students to memorize hosts of isolated facts, and drawing clear lines separating particular “subjects”. As a result, typical elementary education graduates lack scores of key competencies. Advanced as we are, our schools typically (and tragically) suffer from a severe deficiency of relevant, context-based curricula. How could they then help students hone their personal and academic skills? And if they don’t, what are their students destined for but failure and uncertain future – both personally and professionally?

Awaiting results
The grant was meant to finance the “incarnation” of the IDS course into a practical programme, including the production of materials that will be instrumental in disseminating the new pedagogical methods and research findings. The call was for solutions rather than mere “ideas”. We expected the product to be a syllabus: a comprehensive description of an interdisciplinary academic course addressed to the primary schools that, to the extent practicable, follows our holistic, interdisciplinary principles.

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The School of Education is internationally renowned for its research excellence and teaching quality. In REF 2014 The School of Education was ranked 1st in Education in the UK for research impact. We are ranked 4th overall in Education in the UK, with world leading and internationally excellent research. Our staff are engaged in high-quality international research focusing on diverse educational issues and methodological approaches, all underpinned by a commitment to social justice, equity and inclusion. We are
a collegial leadership team, providing mentoring support for colleagues at all career stages.

We have a wide range of full-time, part-time, distance and online programmes, some of them taught in international locations, making this a vibrant and stimulating environment for research-informed teaching. Our student body is growing in diversity, with full and part-time students, coming from a range of previous study experiences, from different contexts of educational practice and from different parts of the world. The School enjoys strong demand for its postgraduate and undergraduate programmes, including our innovative International Postgraduate Certificate in Education (iPGCE) – providing teachers with a deeper understanding of planning, teaching and assessment strategies.

We are based within the Faculty of Social Sciences is a large and diverse grouping of twelve departments that offer professional education alongside more traditional social science disciplines. This rich and exciting disciplinary mix encompasses both world-leading academic research and education and a strong practitioner focus in particular areas. It uniquely positions the Faculty among Sheffield’s peer institutions. The Faculty values the School for its high-impact research, strong city/region partnerships with local schools and communities, and its contribution to teaching excellence.

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Human Restoration Project (HRP) is a US non-profit 501(c)3 which aims to provide resources that illuminate and foster progressive educational practices. We incorporate progressive education as actions toward systemic change. Rather than tweaking around the edges, we must transform schools toward human-centered policies that promote well-being and learning. HRP wants to bring to light what we’ve all seemed to forget: our students, our educators – they are human beings.

HRP centers its work around four values statements:

  • Learning is rooted in purpose-finding and community relevance.
  • Social justice is the cornerstone of educational success.
  • Dehumanizing practices do not belong in schools.
  • Learners are respectful toward each other’s innate human worth.

HRP focuses its attention on systems-based change through grassroots, teacher organized change. Despite decades of US school reform (Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind, A Nation at Risk), only 40% of students are engaged in high school and less than half of students feel their learning is relevant. And, despite our focus on improving math and reading scores – stressing about test results – the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists state we’re “100 seconds from doomsday.” Our priorities in education have moved away from the obvious answer: we’re all human beings, we need to treat each other accordingly.

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Get to know the results of our grant winners!

Coming soon