Integrative learning

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Integrative Learning is a learning theory describing a movement toward integrated lessons helping students make connections across curricula. This higher education concept is distinct from the elementary and high school "integrated curriculum" movement.

Term and Concept[edit]

Integrative Learning comes in many varieties: connecting skills and knowledge from multiple sources and experiences; applying skills and practices in various settings; utilizing diverse and even contradictory points of view; and, understanding issues and positions contextually."

...making connections within a major, between fields, between curriculum, cocurriculum, or between academic knowledge and practice."[1]

Integrated studies involve bringing together traditionally separate subjects so that students can grasp a more authentic understanding. Veronica Boix Mansilla, cofounder of the Interdisciplinary Studies Project at Project Zero, explains "when [students] can bring together concepts, methods, or languages from two or more disciplines or established areas of expertise in order to explain a phenomenon, solve a problem, create a product, or raise a new question” they are demonstrating interdisciplinary understanding. For over a decade, Project Zero researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education have been studying interdisciplinary work across a range of settings. They have found interdisciplinary understanding to be crucial for modern-thinking students. [2]

Edutopia highlighted Central York High School as a “School That Works” because of its successful integrated studies approach. For example, an AP government teacher and art teacher collaborated to create a joint project that asked students to create a sculpture based on the principles presented by the AP government class [3] AP government teacher Dayna Laur states that, “Integrated studies projects [aim to] create a connectedness between disciplines that otherwise might seem unrelated to many students. Deliberately searching for ways in which you can mingle standards and content is imperative if you want to create truly authentic experiences because, in the world outside of the classroom, content is not stand-alone.” [4][5]

Concept map describing activities offered by universities to encourage integrative learning.

Integrated medical curriculum[edit]

In many American medical schools, an integrated curriculum refers to a non-compartmentalized approach to basic science learning. As opposed to traditional medical curriculum, which separate subjects such as embryology, physiology, pathology and anatomy, integrated curricula alternate lectures on these subjects over the course of the first two years. (Jonas 1989) The course of study is instead organized around organ systems (such as "Cardiovascular" or "Gastrointestinal"). Another major component of the integrated medical curriculum is problem-based learning.

K-12 outcomes[edit]

Interdisciplinary curricula has been shown by several studies to support students’ engagement and learning. Specifically integrating science with reading comprehension and writing lessons has been shown to improve students’ understanding in both science and English language arts. [6]

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