Implementing an integrated curriculum at your school can create a more dynamic, engaging learning environment. This is a valuable and exciting option for educators, but it requires careful planning, a strong knowledge of instruction theory, and a comprehensive understanding of curriculum design.
What Is Integrated Learning?
Educational consultant Tara Barton describes an integrated curriculum as one that “connects different areas of study by cutting across subject-matter lines and emphasizing unifying concepts.” The ultimate goal of an integrated curriculum is to bridge the gap between academic knowledge acquired in the classroom and practical experience gained by application of that knowledge in real-life situations. This is achieved through service-learning, a “form of experiential education where learning occurs through a cycle of action and reflection as students seek to achieve real objectives for the community and deeper understanding and skills for themselves.”
There are three primary models of integrated learning:
- Multidisciplinary – A common theme runs across many, or all, subjects.
- Interdisciplinary – Curriculum evolves around “common learnings” that span many disciplines.
- Transdisciplinary – Curriculum grows around student concerns, which helps develop life skills.
In each of these models, service-learning can motivate and engage students, as well as improve their overall learning experiences.
Why Is It So important to Use Integrated Curriculum?
The world continues to evolve, especially in the field of technology, and as technological advances redefine business operations, employers seek out individuals with strong “soft skills.” They need people with the ability to adapt quickly and seamlessly to changing roles and responsibilities.
To keep pace with these changes and make sure students are adequately prepared for the real world, schools must adopt a curriculum that produces creative problem solvers capable of succeeding across many different disciplines. Integrated curriculum is an ideal model for addressing these needs as it produces the following benefits:
- Reduces content duplication across subjects
- Makes learning more relevant and connected to the real world
- Enables students to examine situations or problems holistically
- Better equips students to apply their skills across disciplines
How Does Integrated Curriculum Benefit Teachers and Students?
Introducing an integrated curriculum will make your school more engaging and enjoyable for both teachers and students. Teachers often report being reinvigorated by implementation of an interdisciplinary curriculum. Because block scheduling is essential to an integrated curriculum, teachers find they have more prep time, longer class periods and fewer students in each class. This also gives them time to work individually with students to help them succeed.
Students experience similar benefits as well. Because they work with the same teacher for longer periods of time instead of frequently switching between classes and instructors, they tend to enjoy better relationships and place greater trust in teachers, achieving significant academic progress as a result. Therefore, students benefit both directly and indirectly from an integrated curriculum and leave school more prepared for success in the real world.
In addition to improving school and professional climate overall, Integrative Curriculum can benefit all parties in these ways:
- Parents are often more involved in, or aware of, what is happening at school.
- Teachers frequently express more satisfaction with their jobs.
- Students learn from teachers who feel more empowered and creative.
What Are Some Strategies for Incorporating Integrated Curriculum?
While integrating your curriculum may sound like the perfect way to transform your school, it is important to have an effective strategy for implementing this model. Without adequate preparation and careful planning, attempting to integrate your curriculum could prove complicated and overwhelming. Preparing for this transition should include:
- Training teachers and support staff
- Creating working groups with clearly defined responsibilities
- Establishing clear learning outcomes
- Putting strong assessment methods in place
- Maintaining strong communication between students and teachers
- Preparing to re-evaluate and revise your plan
If you want to play a role in bringing an integrated curriculum to your school, consider the Educational Specialist in Educational Leadership, Curriculum Director degree program from Arkansas State University. This fully online program is an ideal choice for teachers who are passionate about transforming the educational experience for themselves and their students. It holds accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and can be completed in as few as 24 months.