Thursday, March 29, 2007

Pedagogical approaches to integrative learning

The process of teaching requires faculty “to teach well, to engage students, and to foster important forms of student learning” (Hutchings and Shulman, 1999, p. 13). To fulfill this goal, faculty should focus on developing an integrative approach to teaching. An integrative learning environment focuses on blending and extending one course seamlessly into another course. Integrative learning blends perspectives “from disciplines, cultures, subcultures [and] life experiences” (Klein, 2005, p. 9). Integrative learning provides an active learning environment, creates opportunities for deeper learning and can engage students regardless of learning style (Chickering and Gamson, 1987).

To define integrative learning is easier accomplished by characterizing educational opportunities. Students who connect skills, content from multiple sources are integrating learning; applying knowledge from one discipline to another reinforces both disciplines and extends the disciplines equally as well; integrative learning occurs during the process of learning not as a result of learning (Huber and Hutchings, 2004).

Typical courses focus on learning “discrete, unconnected chunks” (Huber, Hutchings and Gale, 2005, p. 6). This focus, while economical for course design, development and delivery, does not typically provide students with the materials, experience or exposure to the broader connections of knowledge (Glaser, 1984). This narrow focus does not adequately prepare today’s students to become tomorrow’s workforce (National Leadership Council for Liberal Education and America’s Promise, 2007). It should become evident that, to promote active learning, students should be challenged to think about course content in new and different ways and to make connections both within courses, experiences, and other courses.

Faculty must think of the learning that occurs after the course has ended. If they have adequately taught the content, students will be searching and making connections to other courses. Courses in this sense never fully answer the discipline specific questions, the students will be seeking answers and continually integrating old knowledge into newer knowledge (Chickering and Gamson, 1987; Huber and Hutchings, 2004). In this approach, faculty and colleges will “help students make connections across learning experiences and over time” (Shi, 2006, p. 4). Students will become lifelong learners and continually add to their own knowledge worth by exploring new ways to learn and connect and extend their knowledge.

Chickering, A., & Gamson, Z. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. American Association for Higher Education Bulletin 39(7), 3-7.

Glaser, R. (1984). Education and thinking: The role of knowledge. American Psychologist 39(2), 93-104.

Huber, M., & Hutchings, P. (2004). Integrative learning: Mapping the terrain. Washington, DC: The Association of American Colleges and Universities. Retrieved March 29, 2007 from

Huber, M., Hutchings, P., & Gale, R. (2005). Integrative learning for liberal education. Peer Review 7(4), 4-7.

Hutchings, P., & Shulman, L. (1999). The scholarship of teaching. Change 31(5), 10-15.

Klein, J. (2005). Integrative learning and interdisciplinary studies. Peer Review 7(4), 8-10.

National Leadership Council for Liberal Education and America’s Promise. (2007). College learning for the new global century. Washington, DC: The Association of American Colleges and Universities. Retrieved March 29, 2007 from

Shi, D. (2006). Technology and integrative learning: Enabling serendipitous connectivity across courses. Peer Review 8(4), 4-7.

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