Curriculum integration is a curriculum design that promotes 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 lines. Planning for curriculum integration begins with an organizing theme followed by the question, "what significant activities might be done to address the theme?" Projects and other activities involve "integration" and application of knowledge in the context of a theme. Content and skill are taught, learned, and applied as they are needed to work on particular themes. While knowledge is drawn from the traditional disciplines (among other sources) students move from activity to activity, or project to project, rather than from subject to subject during the school day (as in the multidisciplinary approach). With its emphasis on real-life themes, contextual application of knowledge, and constructivist learning, the curriculum integration approach is particularly well suited to help students integrate learning experiences into their developing schemes of meaning. For this reason, the term "integrative" is often used to describe this approach. In one variation of curriculum integration, teachers and students plan together to create a thematic curriculum based upon questions and concerns students have about themselves and their world.
Integrated Curriculum (click here for pdf. attachment)
Increasing relevance while maintaining accountability
By Dr. Susan M. Drake & Joanne Reid, Brock University
In addition to literacy and numeracy, teachers need to address other initiatives such as environmental education, character education and the new literacies (media, critical and technological). With so many curriculum expectations to cover and assess, it’s not surprising that teachers sometimes feel overwhelmed. How can teachers do it all?
One way to address these multiple expectations is by integrating the curriculum. Integrated curriculum teaches core concepts and skills by connecting multiple subject areas to a unifying theme or issue. Integrated curriculum is not new; its use in Ontario dates back as far as 1937.1
Previous eras of integrated curriculum – with its holistic, constructivist, child centred approach to education – ended with shifts to a standardized, subject specific, back-to-basics curriculum. These shifts represent changing priorities:relevance and accountability. While Ontario’s current accountability focus has raised literacy and numeracy levels, questions about relevance are resurfacing. One way to increase relevance while maintaining accountability is to adopt an integrated approach. Research has consistently shown that students in integrated programs demonstrate academic performance equal to, or better than, students in discipline-basedprograms. In addition, students are more engaged in school, and less prone to attendance and behaviour problems.2,3,4
What The Research Tells Us
Core cross disciplinary concepts and higher-order skills are taught by connecting multiple subjects to a unifying theme or issue.
● Students in integrated programs demonstrate academic performance equal to, or better than, students in discipline-based programs.
● Benefits include greater student engagement, increased teacher collaboration and professional growth and more opportunities to differentiate learning, all especially helpful for at-rsk students.
● Creating integrated curriculum is not without challenges, often requiring a fundamental change in practice and beliefs.
Learning from others ...
What was the impact of curriculum integration?
Student engagement: Teachers and administrators identified student engagement as the most positive aspect of integration. Administrators noted, “Strong engagement levels alleviated behaviour problems.” Teachers described students as being excited and stimulated to work beyond expectations: “Engagement is HUGE!” Connections to the real world motivated students, and their interests, in turn, shaped instruction. Teachers, impressed by the level of classroom discussion, concluded that “integrated curriculum lends itself to higher order thinking skills.”
Literacy: Literacy, no longer confined to language arts, was taught across the curriculum: “The biggest change was going from teaching one block of literacy to literacy throughout the program.” Connecting curriculum to the real world fostered greater use of non-fiction materials, encouraged use of communication technology, and increased relevancy of reading and writing activities. These features especially appealed to boys.
Numeracy: Opinions about integrating math varied. Some teachers found they could integrate real world math with other subject areas: “The focus is on problem-solving. Real life connections are huge.” Others found that they could integrate some aspects of math, such as data management. Most were comfortable integrating numeracy when there was a natural fit, but some felt that “numeracy is more challenging [than literacy] to integrate.”