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Integrative Learning

​​​​​Integrative learning occurs when students make connections among ideas and experiences in order to transfer learning to new contexts. The Association of American Colleges and Universities notes that integrative learning asks students to examine their experiences “across the curriculum and co-curriculum, from making simple connections among ideas and experiences to synthesizing and transferring learning to new, complex situations within and beyond the campus.”

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In College Made Whole: Integrative Learning for a Divided World (2019), Chris W. Gallagher argues it’s the responsibility of instructors and institutions to regularly incorporate opportunities for students to connect and synthesize their learning.

Gallagher provides a few strategies that can be adapted to many learning contexts in order to help students regularly connect and synthesize their knowledge and therefore promote integrative learning (69-70, 118-119):

  • Ask students to set goals at the start of the class. Ask students to identify what they already know and what they want to know. 
  • Help students to map how their current courses are related to their previous courses and experiences. 
  • Ask students to incorporate what they’re learning in other courses and contexts during class discussions, assignments, and activities. Ask students to specifically connect what they’re learning in courses outside of their major. 
  • Ask students to identify how their prior work experiences and professional ambitions are related to the current course material.
  • Incorporate regular reflection activities to encourage students to identify the skills and knowledge they will apply to future professional and/or learning experiences. 
  • Invite professionals and alumni to talk about the application of the concepts and skills in the course or program. 
  • Provide opportunities and resources for students to visit professional or cultural sites where they can contextualize their learning. 

At DePaul, integrative learning is measured by  a student's ability to connect and synthesize and connect new ideas within their discipline, outside their discipline, and to life outside the University.

Example Assignment Prompts

“Connections Within a Discipline” Prompt

Making use of professional journals or resources in your career field, research and examine four to six significant creative changes within your career field of interest that have occurred in the last 10-15 years. Then, write an analytical paper in which you examine and reflect on those creative changes. Your paper should:

  1. Introduce your field of interest, the challenges it confronts, and the way creativity and change play a role
  2. Summarize four to six changes that have been made in your field, why they were made, how they were implemented, and what effect they had on your field
  3. Analyze the variables or factors that led to that success or failure
  4. Reflect on the reasons for success or failure
  5. Reference and cite resources that helped you learn more about these changes within your field

“Connections to Other Disciplines” Prompt

What is your epistemology? Using class readings as a guide, decide which epistemology best fits the way you see the world, incorporating citations from major texts in the field. Analyze the ways in which our course readings, and the content of other courses within this program, have impacted your definition of epistemology.

Then, select one of the two options below:

  1. Investigate the epistemological practices of another field or discipline, and discuss how those practices might align with, or help you develop, your current definition.
  2. Investigate applying your current epistemology in another field or discipline. What might work well? What gaps might emerge?;

“Connections to Life Beyond DePaul” Prompts

  1. Take a key term from your field, think about how you defined it when you arrived at DePaul, and then analyze how that definition changed during your time at DePaul. Then, apply that definition to your professional and personal aspirations once you leave DePaul. 
  2. Define and analyze a key concept from your field, and then apply that key concept to a case study or real-world example. After articulating the connection to a case study or example, describe how this key concept could also be applied in a professional setting. 

References

Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 

Association of American Colleges and Universities. (n.d.) Integrative and Applied Learning VALUE Rubric

Gallagher, C. (2019.) College Made Whole: Integrative Learning for a Divided World. Johns Hopkins University Press.