Blog – Integrative Education

Integrative Education

Beki Aldam, Crossfields Learning

What does ‘integrative education’ mean? 

The definition of ‘integrative’ is, “combining two or more things to form an effective unit or system.”  

What happens when we apply that to education and learning? It becomes a multi-faceted term that encompasses many elements of the learning process, the students and the teachers.  

The best-known version of integrative education (IE) is where the student learns in a way that combines or crosses over the boundaries between traditionally-divided subject areas. Sometimes called transdisciplinary, cross-curricular, or inter-curricular learning, students partake in learning that requires a range and combination of skills, and may include several subject areas. For example, a project making musical instruments that might combine musical, mathematic, physics, and handwork skills. 

However, it isn’t only the idea that day-to-day living is not neatly divided into subject silos, and that by fragmenting the student’s learning experience into artificial categories, the student is working in a way that isn’t reflecting the reality of the world around them.  

Education that is truly integrative also encourages an integration of intellectual, emotional, physical and social skills within the individual. It integrates the learner with the world in which we live; the societies that are fluctuating around them; and the planet that so desperately needs more understanding and support from humanity.  

Why does Crossfields Institute embrace IE? 

For Crossfields Institute, there are three ways that education can be described as ‘integrative’. For us, integrative education: 

  1. Engages the whole person – both teacher and student. They use and develop their mental, physical and emotional skills.

  2. Connects the learner and their learning to their daily life. Their own experiences become valuable in their learning; their learning is useful in their own lives, within their particular context. The student’s educational experience remains relevant for them, and continues to do so as they leave the educational setting and move out into the world. 

  3. Connects or combines both different subjects and the skills those subjects seek to develop. 

Education that is integrative will – we believe – be more engaging, more enlightening, more meaningful. Students will have the chance to love what they learn and apply it wherever it is most needed in their lives. 

The good and the great 

So, what advantages can this way of learning produce for the learner? 

Arguably, integrative education: 

  • Better prepares students for a swiftly-changing world, one that isn’t divided into subjects. 

  • Allows students to come up with better ideas and solutions, when looking at a project or problem as a whole, rather than by dividing their thinking. 

  • Encourages students to apply their skillsets in a fluid and dynamic way, rather than trying to approach something with a fixed mindset. 

More broadly, we can see that humanity is facing some serious challenges, with increasing numbers of crises threatening us at every level. Things have to change, and education is a crucial part of that. Our education systems are not currently enabling people to function happily, healthily or sustainably in the world. 

The challenges and reservations 

Although there are clear problems with education, it’s still an unnerving idea to many that everything about the current system needs to be overhauled in favour of something different, a move into the unknown. However, integrative education isn’t a new concept. Pedagogical experts have mooted, examined and proposed IE ideas for over a century (Kilpatrick’s The Project Method was published in 1918!) 

Yet, in many of the world’s mainstream education systems, IE has not been implemented in any meaningful way. There are reasons for this: 

  • Time: On a practical level, teachers often don’t have time to collaborate in a way that would make their students’ experience truly integrative. There are many gestures and nods towards IE (numeracy in your English lessons anyone?) but these do not make the educational experience truly integrative, and therefore don’t bring along its benefits. 

  • Organisation: There has to be some way to organise the educational experience. And there are advantages to structuring the students’ day so they learn a certain set of skills, and are able to focus on one thing at a time. Also, even if they did work on a multi-disciplinary project, they’d need to break that down into manageable chunks. Some argue that subject-silos are an effective way to do this. 

  • Change: Embracing IE fully requires big changes to be made. Large-scale reforms are difficult and often unpopular at first, making it an unappealing job both for educators and the politicians who may direct or enable such reforms at a national level. 

However, these challenges can be met and mitigated by the right IE system. One that allows teachers to collaborate; one that recognises the importance of specialist knowledge, but doesn’t restrict teachers and learners within subject silos; one that is organised and purposeful; one that works with education settings to support and implement the changes in a manageable way.  

Where to begin 

At Crossfields, our IE suite aims to allow all students to achieve their best and stay engaged. It’s also more inclusive than the current exam-based system, because it uses a fairer, wider range of assessment such as portfolios, presentation and performance. The courses run at both Level 2 and Level 3. Schools and organisations who adopt the IE qualifications are given support and teachers are offered training, to ensure they feel comfortable with and capable of delivering the materials.  

Find out more about the IE suite 

Relational Arts & Organic Design – an inspiring new course at Emerson College

Relational Arts & Organic Design is an immersive twelve-week course exploring the relational nature of the world in which we live through a rich programme of nature-based crafts, expressive art and observational science The programme is composed of three four-week blocks built around the themes of Enquiry, Creativity & Purpose:

  • Block 1 – Enquiry: 4 x one-week open modules
  • Block 2 – Creativity: 1 four-week open module
  • Block 3 – Purpose: 1 four-week final project

Students can take part on either a full-time or a part-time basis, choosing one or more of the open modules from the first two blocks. Please note: Block 3 (four-week final project) is only open to students who have completed either Block 1 or Block 2.

Find out more:

Steiner Schooling Without the Stress of Tests

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A class of their own: Tilda Swinton and Louis the dog join some of Drumduan’s 17 students on their school trip to Colonsay, with head teacher Krzysztof Zajaczkowski (far left). Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Observer

 

The children of Drumduan Upper School never sit any tests, and they rarely sit at desks. Yet a recent inspection found a school full of happy and inspired students learning about life through practical and creative activities.

Read more:
https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/jun/13/education-school-tilda-swinton-scotland

Private Higher Education to Face Tougher Quality Standards

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In an effort to make sure private higher education providers contribute to, not detract from Britain’s reputation for excellent higher education, Universities minister Greg Clark says that they will face tougher quality standards. For example, they will need to register their students with the appropriate qualifications body before they can claim student support.

https://www.out-law.com/en/articles/2015/february/uk-government-to-tighten-standards-at-alternative-higher-education-providers/

First Official Steiner School Opens in Ireland

Image: Shutterstock, via thejournal.ie

Mol an Óige, Ireland’s first official Steiner school, is now providing education to 136 pupils and growing. The school’s “delayed approach to formal learning” takes the focus away from textbooks and more towards developing critical thinking; yet they are still able to meet the required curriculum. Click here to read more…