What is Curriculum Integration? There is no agreed-upon definition, however, there are several characteristics that are within all definitions. They include: student-centered relevant learning, a socially and site-based orientation, all disciplines and grade levels may be involved, and shared content. Curriculum Integration may be referred to as: thematic, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and having connected curriculum.
When looking at Curriculum Integration, one sees projects and activities that are based on themes. These themes connect the different disciplines together to form a unified curriculum base. Real-world investigations are used to make the curriculum authentic to the students. Problem-based activities encompass a wide range of academic disciplines so the theme may be used and the students will feel a connection between all aspects of the problem. Academic disciplines are seen as tools to aide the learning process.
When a school decides to use Curriculum Integration, they will be able to use this practice in several areas. They may decide to use it within a single discipline. A good example of this is Price Lab having Integrated Math. This math teaches all math within each classroom. They may be using Algebra, along with Trigonometry, Statistics, Geometry, etc., all at the same time. This helps the students understand how real-world problems will be solved using several types of math.
The school system may also go across several disciplines to unite their curriculum. A good example of this is when McKinstry Elementary did a unit on the jungle. The Classroom teacher taught English, History and Science concerning the jungle. The Music teacher taught music that was used within the tribes that lived within that part of the world. The Art teacher allowed the students to make life-size cardboard animals and paint them to put within a jungle scene that had been set-up within their main classroom. The Physical Education teacher did games from the jungle tribes. The last teacher to participate was the Librarian. She allowed the students to research jungle animals in books and on the computers. She also read them stories concerning this theme. Curriculum Integration is done within and across learners. This helps all students realize the connection between all subject areas utilized
When looking at the historical perspective of the Integrated Curriculum, it began in the 1800’s under the label of Core Curriculum, as stated by Herbert Spencer. During the Progressive Educational Movement in the early 1900’s, the name was changed to Integrated Curriculum. Much work was done on this theory by John Dewey, William Kilpatrick, George Counts, and Harold Rugg. The theory progressed further in the mid-1900’s within the Constructivist Movement. Each person constructs his/her reality with one’s own direct experience being the key to meaningful learning.
How do you do Curriculum Integration within the school setting? First, the school system must decide what they would like to integrate (themes), what disciplines they would like to include in this integration, how best to teach these themes, research sources, develop some type of a plan (mapping or web-mapping), and whether technology will be used within the integration.
Curriculum Integration differs greatly from the current way of teaching within the school system. Now, teaching is skill-based, the Basal reader is used along with single text, memorization and cumulative knowledge is demanded, and the teaching is taught vertically using the lecture format. Once a school system begins using Curriculum Integration, the classes will be whole language, show authentic literature with multi-texts, promote how to learn which is research-based, and is horizontal using cooperative learning.
An example of beginning a feasible Curriculum Integration using technology should follow three stages. These stages include:
• Phase I – Distribution of technology where needed. Participant’s will be able to communicate between home and school and use basic software tools (Microsoft Works and Publisher) to carry out a wide-range of curriculum activities.
• Phase II – Integration of additional multimedia resources into the school and its curriculum, and the broader community: completing the development of the technical infrastructure; distributing the technology to the community; procuring the resources for the multimedia library; conducting staff development for the educator; and gather baseline data for studies of implementation and effectiveness.
• Phase III – all participants are given access to the network from hone and from their classrooms. Curriculum begins to be taught here.
Within innovations of Curriculum Integration, we look at allowing the students to participate in “real-world” authentic situations. If the unit is a collaboration of student and teacher input, it would be advisable to follow “The Project Approach” developed by Lillian Katz and Sylvia Chard. In this model the students might choose the topic according to interests, or the teacher could direct the topic. The students go home and interview parents, family members, neighbors, etc., about the topic. Then they share what they learned and develop questions from the things that they have learned which starts the inquiry. The teacher can also ask questions that focus on curriculum goals. This would be the set of essential questions:
• Highlights conceptual priorities for your specific target population
• Fulfills learning outcomes.
• Umbrella-like language for organizing purposes
• Usually two to five questions.
• Each question embraces a distinct section of activity.
• The set of questions is non-repetitious.
• Realistic set of questions for the time frame.
• POSTED by all participating teachers
• Connects a range of disciplines (if interdisciplinary).
• A logical sequence is apparent in the set of questions.
• EVERY child can understand the questions
When deciding to use total Curriculum Integration one must include comprehensive school reform, technological innovation and corporate sponsorship. To develop core applications for Curriculum Integration which includes technology, one should:
• Review CORE to determine the content and process/skills to be included in the unit for each of the disciplines that will be used
• Content is WHAT STUDENTS SHOULD KNOW.
• Process/skills are WHAT STUDENTS SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO.
• Assessment is added as teachers think of appropriate ways to assess in each discipline.
• Content, process/skills, and assessment can be placed on the curriculum map if desired.
• This page will be used by the teacher and the students as an assessment guide to determine if the student has mastered the desired content and process/skills.
Level I Research on Curriculum Integration shows the theory was established by John Dewey, William Kilpatrick, George Counts and Harold Rugg. It was presented to the educational system during the 20th Century. Level II and Level III Research is lacking. Within Level II, basic research has been done using block scheduling, team teaching, and self-contained programs. Very few schools have gone to total curriculum integration and there is very little data to back these trials. It has been observed that Curriculum Integration is itself a large holding company of educational variables that, put together, DEFIES CLASSICE RESARCH METHODS. It has also been shown that so significant data has been collected on which to base Integration Curriculum as a valid classroom practice.
To develop a unit/project there are several steps that one must go through. They include:
• Write an essential question at the top of each page; lay the pages out in a working area.
• Review the brainstorm map and the content, process/skills/assessment page and develop activities. Write the activity name on a “sticky” and place under the corresponding essential question
• When activities have been decided upon, determine if the essential questions will work – is another one needed? Is there one that is not needed?
• Place the activities in the order decided.
• If desired, fill in the format for each activity:
o Determine if the activity focuses on a content or process/skill or both.
o Name the activity. If the activity needs more explanation, refer to the lesson plan form provided
o List the multiple intelligences the activity addresses
o Describe which thinking process is used in this activity.
o Include how the activity will be assed.
• List the resources needed
• At the bottom of each page is space for culminating or connecting activities, as well as a place to put choices for student presentations or products
• When all activities have been decided upon, it might be helpful to tabulate them on the matrix created by Thomas Armstrong to see how balanced the unit is in meeting all students’ needs and thinking process.
The primary strengths of Curriculum Integration include: student-centered; combines school subjects into active projects; uses academic disciplines as tools for the learning process; accommodates learning of skills in separate subjects and application of those to real-life situations; often tied to community issues; leads to cooperative learning; teachers serve as guides, facilitators, and enablers; teachers collaborate, take risks, innovate, and grow professionally; and that teachers and students are involved in the planning and development of instructional process.
Weaknesses include: a potpourri problem; polarity may develop; disciplines or subjects may be slighted; focus is integration as a means to an end; focus is authentic learning activities; time; availability of materials; and type of assessment to be used.
Practitioners may need some suggestions to help them become comfortable with trying or implementing Curriculum Integration. Some suggestions that could be proposed include: becoming comfortable with the use of technology; step outside of the box; research to find the appropriate plan for them; use “mapping” or “web-mapping” to solidify curriculum; acquire district/community “buy-in”; collaborate with fellow teachers; use professional growth to dare themselves to grow professionally; dare to be innovative; co-teach and be comfortable sharing the lime-light; etc. Once teachers become unafraid of others treading on their territory, Integrated Curriculum could become a practice of the future.
When discussing Integrated Curriculum, one might look at the Thinking Skills Programs to understand the way children develop learning patterns. Piaget’s Developmental Stages include:
• Stage Characterised by Sensori-motor
(Birth-2 yrs) Differentiates self from objects
Recognizes self as agent of action and begins to act intentionally: e.g. pulls a string to set mobile in motion or shakes a rattle to make a noise
Achieves object permanence: realizes that things continue to exist even when no longer present to the sense (pace Bishop Berkeley)
(2-7 years) Learns to use language and to represent objects by images and words
Thinking is still egocentric: has difficulty taking the viewpoint of others
Classifies objects by a single feature: e.g. groups together all the red blocks regardless of shape, or the square blocks, regardless of color
• Concrete operational
(7-11 years) Can think logically about objects and events
Achieves conservation of number (age 6), mass (age 7), and weight (age 9)
Classifies objects according to several features and can order them in series along a single dimension such as size.
• Formal operational
(11 years and up) Can think logically about abstract propositions and test hypotheses systematically
Becomes concerned with the hypothetical, the future, and ideological problems.
If you look at these stages, one can see that Integrated Curriculum would be beneficial during the through the Pre-operational to Formal operational stages. This is where the mind is actively working on developing higher-ordering thinking skills. By including the information that the student’s already have, with new information, knowledge development and learning would increase.
 Dumas, M. State Integrated Curriculum Specialist. Oct. 1, 1997. http://www.usoe.k12.ut.us/curr/integrate/packet/int2.html
 Hayes-Jacobs, H. State Integrated Curriculum Specialist. Oct. 1, 1997. http://www.usoe.k12.ut.us/curr/integrate/packet/int4.html
 Dumas, M. State Integrated Curriculum Specialist. Oct. 1, 1997. http://www.usoe.k12.ut.us/curr/integrate/packet/int3.html
 Ellis, A. Research on Educational Innovations. Eye on Education. Larchmont, NY. 2001 pp. 171-181
 Dumas, M. State Integrated Curriculum Specialist. Oct. 1, 1997. http://www.usoe.k12.ut.us/curr/integrate/packet/int5.h5ml
 Atkinson et al (1993) Introduction to Psychology. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. http://www.dmu.ac.uk/~jamesa/learning/piaget.htm