EDU 6363: Course Reflection: Some Benefits of an Integrated Curriculum

2. Instruction – The teacher uses research-based instructional practices to meet the needs of all students.

2.2 Engaging Students in Learning
Most activities and assignments are appropriate to students, and almost all students are cognitively engaged in exploring content.

3. Differentiation – The teacher acquires and uses specific knowledge about students’ cultural, individual intellectual and social development and uses that knowledge to adjust their practice by employing strategies that advance student learning.

3.3 Demonstrating Flexibility and Responsiveness in Persisting to Support Students
Teacher persists in seeking approaches for students who have difficulty learning, drawing on a broad repertoire of strategies.

There are many benefits to an integrated curriculum. Of these, one of the many benefits that stand out is that an integrated curriculum can provide a deeper, more memorable learning environment. Learning activities should be memorable, and in order to provide these activities, students should have the ability to explore and discover information during their learning. Furthermore, learning should pertain to experiences that students may encounter in the real world; these learning activities should provide a meaningful encounter that links to students’ lives outside the school. Drake and Burns (2004) state, “In a classroom where the best practices of teaching, learning, and assessment exist, the curriculum engages students” (p.77). When students are engaged in learning, they remember their learning experiences. This is beyond teaching about one subject area or feeding and assessing students on their memorization of factual information; rather students should be engaged in exploring real problems and activities that involve the practice of a variety of subject areas, allowing them the capability to relate their learning to real-world problems and scenarios. This practice allows educators to engage students in learning while also providing diverse approaches to allowing students to explore new knowledge.

When evaluating the goals of an integrated curriculum, it is helpful to find ways to make learning experiences more meaningful and memorable. The integrated curriculum should address both “…accountability and relevance needs” (Drake and Burns, 2004, p. 146). In other words, students should understand what they are to learn but also why and how it is relevant to their lives. Figure 1 shows an example of a vision of education that places an integrated curriculum at its core (Drake and Burns, 2004). For example, we plan for what we want students to know and do, but we should also foresee what we hope students will be. While teachers should plan with other teachers, students can also be involved in planning classroom experiences making those experiences more relevant to their own interests.

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Figure 1: Both/And Vision of Education (Drake & Burns, 2004, p. 145).

Previous posts in this blog demonstrate a variety of topics and methods to integrate curriculum. Overall, an integrated curriculum should combine subject areas while also aligning learning to scaffold within students’ zone of proximal development (ZPD). The aligned and integrated curriculum can focus on a variety of learning standards from several subject areas while also relating learning to the real world. For example, in a social studies unit, students can learn about the overarching theme, perhaps Islamic culture in the Byzantine Empire while also learning about the art, science, writing, and economy of that culture. Students can also make connections between the beginnings of the Byzantine Empire to that region in modern times while also making comparisons to their own local community. In one unit designed around this overarching theme, students can learn about the influences of Islam on our language, mathematics, engineering, science, and art of modern times. This one unit of study would have the capability of integrating a vast variety of learning standards.

In my future classroom, I intend to utilize a variety of methods to make learning meaningful and memorable to my students. I hope to diversify learning activities to promote the interests of all of my students. As stated by Drake and Burns (2004), “Teachers who use integrated curriculum usually create inviting classrooms that engage students in meaningful learning. They are motivated and passionate teachers” (p.30).

Reference:

Drake, S. M. & Burns, R. C. (2004). Meeting standards through integrated curriculum. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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