Curriculum integration has been identified among the most revolutionary pedagogical strategies in the interdisciplinary approach to education. Julie Thompson Klein (2006) explained that in curriculum integration, “Disciplinary and subject boundaries are blurred and connections magnified…Integration becomes the purpose of education, not simply a tool. In student-centered curricula, the students’ worlds, not a school- or government-mandated syllabus, become the heart of learning.
Students even participate in selecting the themes and problems they will study, and they often work together collaboratively. ” (Klein 2006, p. 14). Educators first explored the concept of integrating curriculum in the 1890s. Over the years, there have been numerous educational researchers, e. g. , Susan Drake, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, James Beane and Gordon Vars, who have described various interpretations of curriculum integration, referring to the curriculum as interwoven, connected, thematic, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, correlated, linked and holistic.
Many educators, e. g. , Robin Fogarty, go beyond a single definition of curriculum integration and view it instead as a continuum. Furthermore, curriculum integration aims to improve students’ interdisciplinary understanding, defined as “the capacity to integrate knowledge and modes of thinking in two or more disciplines to produce cognitive advancement – e. g. explaining a phenomenon, solving a problem, creating a product, raising a new question – in ways that would have been unlikely through single disciplinary means. ” (Klein 2006, p. 5) While the true origins of the theory of integration are numerous and wide-ranging, a general consensus identifies the work of German educator Johann Herbart (1776-1841) as the “germ” of the modern integration movement. From Herbartian beginnings, the first half of the twentieth century saw a development of curriculum integration through the project approach, core curriculum movement, and problem-centered core curricula (Klein 2006). Each involved varying levels of priority shifting from separate subject knowledge acquisition to problem-solving experiences that integrated disciplinary learning.
That period also reflected the influence of John Dewey’s views on the social purposes of education. Educators interested in integration began to consider the school’s role in expanding democracy and encouraging the development of values and skills necessary for the “common life. ” (Beane 1997) Beane (1997) defined curriculum integration as “curriculum design that is concerned with enhancing the possibilities for personal and social integration through the organization of curriculum around significant problems and issues, collaboratively identified by educators and young people, without regard for subject area boundaries. (Beane 1997, p. x-xi) Teachers who adopt this kind of curriculum have to make several shifts in the traditional teacher-student relationship, such as sharing decision making with students, focusing more on student concerns than predetermined content guidelines, learning along with students in unfamiliar areas, and taking student constructions of meaning seriously. The upside to taking on such a challenging role is the improved relations with students in these classrooms.
By placing students at the center of all learning endeavors, these teachers tend to have fewer curricular conflicts and classroom management issues. (Beane 1997) Curriculum integration is clearly far from taking the easy road, but it may well be worth it. Curriculum integration can be described as an approach to teaching and learning that is based on both philosophy and practicality. It can generally be defined as a curriculum approach that purposefully draws together knowledge, skills, attitudes and values from within or across subject areas to develop a more powerful understanding of key ideas.
Curriculum integration occurs when components of the curriculum are connected and related in meaningful ways by both the students and teachers. Curriculum integration is more than a clustering of related learning outcomes. The selection of learning experiences should be based on the extent to which they promote progress or broaden and confirm understanding. There is no one best way to integrate the curriculum; however, the following key requirements should be met for successful integration.