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 

Inclusive Teaching and Learning in Higher Education as a route to Excellence

The Department for Education have produced a new report ‘ Inclusive Teaching and Learning in Higher Education as a route to Excellence’ The need for a report is partly due to cuts in funding for Universities’ support for disabled students. Now the education provider is expected to ensure that their provision is already inclusive. Funding will still be available for very severe impairment issues.

This might seem like a bad thing – more cuts – etc. However, the report makes it clear that they are embracing a very enlightened approach to disability. They include a section on the Social Model of Disability p.12 where they say:

“Increasing opportunities for disabled students requires us to consider the social model of disability. This emphasises that disability is caused by the way society is organised, rather than by a person’s impairment or difference and looks at ways of removing barriers that restrict life choices for disabled people. When barriers are removed, disabled people can be independent and equal in society, with choice and control over their own lives. HE providers could embrace and adopt this approach as it supports and guides the ways in which pedagogy; curricula and assessment are designed and delivered to engage students in learning that is meaningful, relevant and accessible to all. It embraces a view of the individual and individual difference as the source of diversity that can enrich the lives and learning of others. This calls for a shift in thinking and focus to one which not only advocates the social model of disability but also promotes French and Swain’s (2000) affirmation model which views disability as a normal part of diversity and views it as a matter of pride and not personal tragedy.”

To read the full report go to:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/inclusive-teaching-and-learning-in-higher-education

London inner-city school adopts inspired strategies

The London Nautical School rejects exam focused schooling and chooses some radical strategies to engage pupils. In English and Science pupils can chose what to study, and which teacher to work with, from a range of proposals put forward by the teachers. It is interesting to note that in a book by John Bazalgette ‘School Life and Work Life’ published in 1978! similar suggestions were being made. The school has also rejected ‘setting’ – where pupils of different perceived ability are taught separately. To find out more about this and the results they are getting see this article from Aljazeera news

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/rebel-education/2016/12/pick-teacher-democratic-schooling-uk-161220141451434.html

A Better School Inspection Regime?

Ofsted’s new Chief, Amanda Spielman, who used to be the head of Ofqual has just given her first interview. She talked about being aware of the huge pressure schools feel when Ofsted inspection time arrives. As a charity committed to holistic education, we would like Ofsted to improve in measuring how a school performs in all sorts of ways that are not just about the academic achievement – how is the school developing the social and emotional intelligence of the young person, how are they doing in building confidence and curiosity? Let’s watch this space…

Launch of Teaching Excellence Framework for Higher Education in England

2017 sees the launch of the Teaching Excellence Framework for Higher Education providers in England. Those who sign up by the end of this month will self-assess, and then be externally assessed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England in relation to teaching quality, learning environment and student outcomes.

The Framework provides opportunities for students to play an active role in supporting excellent teaching and learning environments, but may well cause concerns for HE Institutions who know that they have little influence over future employment opportunities, which form a significant part of measuring their success.

There is considerable concern about the implementation of this amongst higher education providers, especially as those signing up will be given grades. https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2017/jan/05/what-will-happen-in-higher-education-in-2017

BBC: University lowers entry grades for disadvantaged

The University of Bristol is to offer places with lower grades to disadvantaged students in local schools. As you will read, teachers will make an assessment as to the competence and potential of the person, regardless of grades achieved. Dare we propose that this carries both risks and advantages: if teachers are not competent to assess the competence and potential of students, we have a major issue – as we know, the education of teachers in this country leaves much to be desired; on the other hand, this proposal from the University promises a move towards accepting the – to us – intuitive notion that grades does not tell us everything we need to know about the competence and potential of a person!

Read more here

UWE Graduation: MSc in Practical Skills Therapeutic Education

A huge congratulations to our students who are all now graduates of the MSc in Practical Skills Therapeutic Education (Integrated Professional Development), accredited by the University of the West of England, delivered by the Crossfields Institute faculty at the Ruskin Mill Trust Field Centre.

Despite the terrible weather provided by Storm Angus, a wonderful graduation ceremony was enjoyed last night at the Bristol Cathedral, for those who were able to attend.

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No more Art History

It has been widely reported that it will no longer be possible to study “A” level Art History, the last awarding organisation has recently dropped it from their portfolio of qualifications. This is sad news, the study of the history of art is the study of the development of ideas and our cultural identity and could have a detrimental effect on thriving creative industries across the UK. What other rich and rewarding subjects are in danger of being lost to the students of today?

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/art-history-a-level-dropped-creative-subjects-aqa-gove-a7359436.html

Some 839 students sat an A-level exam in the subject this summer, making it an expensive course for the board to maintain Getty