The term curriculum integration (CI) refers to combining two or more subjects when teaching a topic. CI involves integrating the subject concepts, subject content (the facts or substantive knowledge), and the subject competencies (or skills) developed in a topic. This approach has been known by a variety of names such as interdisciplinarity, cross-disciplinarity, cross curricular learning, and curriculum integration, and has a long history reaching back to the early twentieth-century American educational philosopher John Dewey.
The thinking behind curriculum integration argues that linking subjects through a relational idea could be more engaging for students and provide a ‘real-world’ stimulus for learning. Different subjects might offer different interpretations of a particular topic or problem. The idea of curriculum integration has recently re-emerged as one of the key themes of twenty-first century learning and, in this context, is most often linked with inquiry learning, based on the logic that, in an authentic inquiry context, students need to draw on more than one subject to fully investigate a problem or a topic.
There is little clear empirical evidence for the positive effects of CI on student learning outcomes. There is some evidence that CI approaches lead to improvements in students’ feelings about learning, although not necessarily their academic outcomes.
Curriculum integration involves selecting a topic and then considering areas of overlap or enrichment that are possible across separate subjects by asking what are the key subject concepts and subject competencies that you want students to learn in the topic. It is important to ensure that you go beyond everyday, common-sense knowledge or key competencies to focus on subject concepts and competencies. It is also important to consider the order in which the content will be shared with students, how the students will be provided with access to the knowledge they need, how the key subject concepts relate to each piece of content, and the types of learning activities you will use to explore the subject concepts and content, such as reading, direct instruction, and guided inquiry.
- What will students learn by bringing two or more subjects together that they would not otherwise learn?
- What subject expertise is needed?
- How can you assess that deeper learning has occurred?
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