Integrated studies is one of those buzzy terms in education, but many teachers are confused about what it actually means and how it works.
Using lessons in one subject to highlight areas of other topics is not only an excellent method to gaining more student interest in class, it’s also helpful to reach the whole child. Though an artistic student might not be interested in math, a teacher who is able to develop a lesson plan that includes activities in which the class is exploring concepts in this subject through art-based projects will be more likely to see the child’s progress develop in both areas. That’s where integrated studies can be helpful.
Integrated Studies: A Definition
Showcasing the benefits of its Center for Integrative Studies, St. Olaf College explains integrated studies as preparing students to “…plan how they will integrate their diverse educational experiences in pursuit of their educational goals, and to be explicit about the connections they have made among those experiences…it recognizes and articulates relationships among subject matters, and applies learning from one context to another…it also involves building bridges between academic learning and the wider world…”
Success in Integrated Studies
Many successful examples of integrated studies exist at the college level, as institutions of higher learning develop more comprehensive approaches to core curriculum that is required for graduation. Teachers of middle and high-school students have also found value in blending concepts through integrated studies.
In the Bronx, N.Y., Riverdale Country School‘s students are given many different opportunities to experience integrated studies within humanities and STEM education. The school’s upper-class students are taught physics and calculus courses through blended classes that meet twice a day, taught by two teachers, each of whom covers their respective topics. The discourse between the two teachers complements the curriculum for each subject.
In this K-12 school, students of all ages are introduced to opportunities in integrated studies that include a Science Research Symposium — which also teaches presentation and public-speaking skills; maker classes that incorporate design and problem solving to build furniture; and coding programs that require “analysis, design, development, implementation, and testing” while keeping a journal and creating a portfolio.
The Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ACSD) cites an example of children who have made wind and rain machines that teach evaporation, condensation, and thermal energy, while expanding communication skills through dedicating thought to how they express their findings through written reports. Though the primary goal was to introduce concepts in STEM, students also exhibited progress in these non-scientific areas that are still crucial to excelling in college and careers.
Challenges of Integrated Studies
It might not seem that including integrated studies would present challenges, but teachers should be aware of some potential pitfalls of this method. Planning lessons is time-consuming, as educators must identify how each subject complements the other topics that are covered. Though this method can be used to ease students into learning concepts, if not properly presented, it can cause confusion among students.
When planning to incorporate integrated studies in the classroom, explore a variety of ways to create lesson plans that pull from different subjects and strengthen an array of skills. Find out more ways to blend subjects by thinking about how to use service learning and STEAM , sports and STEM, and station-based learning to relay concepts.
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