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Elements of Integration in the Classroom


Definitions of Integration

To integrate means to coordinate, blend, or bring together separate parts into a functioning, unified, and harmonious whole. According to McNeil (1985), curricular integration assists students to identify the links, not only between ideas and processes within a single field, but also between ideas and processes, in separate fields, and in the world outside of school.

The integration of knowledge and skills can be categorized according to three main types of curricular connections

It is also imperative that the cognitive, affective, and social domains provide a context for learning, and they become an integral part of the teaching-learning process, regardless of the type of curricular integration (D'Hainaut, 1979 in Legendre, 1993). These domains are non-subject specific and involve the active and deliberate construction of meaning. Appendix A - A Generic Model of a Teaching-Learning Process provides a model for integration.


Within Subject Areas

An intradisciplinary approach involves an arrangement of the knowledge and skills within one subject area. This approach respects the subject's way of knowing distinct conceptual structures and methods of inquiry. It aims at integrating the subject's knowledge and skills into a coherent whole. Also a part of this approach is vertical integration where knowledge and skills within one subject area are connected from grade-to-grade (teachers need to be aware of the scope and sequence of their subject area in Kindergarten through Senior 4).

Examples

  • Integrating listening, speaking, reading, writing, viewing, and representing in the study of language
  • Integrating ecology, physics, and chemistry in the study of sciences at Early Years

Between Subject Areas

In a multidisciplinary or a pluridisciplinary approach, subject areas are independent of one another. In this approach, teachers deliberately coordinate the timing and delivery of related topics, but they make no attempt to synthesize or draw together different subject area perspectives.

Note: Before teachers can begin to make connections between subject areas, the first type of integration, intradisciplinary integration, must be established.

Examples

  • The language arts teacher presents The Diary of Anne Frank at the same time the social studies teacher introduces World War II.
  • The mathematics teacher focuses on graphing skills, while the science teacher has students carry out experiments where results are presented in graph form.
  • A school timetables mathematics to be taught prior to physics; this arrangement allows students to acquire prerequisite mathematics skills.

An interdisciplinary approach (also called horizontal integration) connects the interdependent knowledge and skills from more than one subject area to examine a central theme, issue, problem, topic, or experience. It is a holistic approach that stresses linkages.

Example

  • Using sustainable development as a theme, students pursue learning outcomes from science, social studies, and language arts to better understand a complex issue.

Beyond Subject Areas

A transdisciplinary approach places the characteristics, needs, interests, and personal learning processes of students at the forefront of the learning experience. Students engage in independent projects which aim to develop

  • initiative
  • imagination and creativity
  • research skills
  • analysis and synthesis skills
  • autonomy

As students work on projects, they acquire knowledge and skills that are based in the subject areas. However, the subject areas are subordinate to the project goals.

Example

  • Students work on independent research projects. The formal timetable is left behind while teachers guide students in their research.

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