Curriculum Integration

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Curriculum integration has been identified among the most revolutionary pedagogical strategies in the interdisciplinary approach to education. Julie Thompson Klein (2006) explained that in curriculum integration, “Disciplinary and subject boundaries are blurred and connections magnified…Integration becomes the purpose of education, not simply a tool. In student-centered curricula, the students’ worlds, not a school- or government-mandated syllabus, become the heart of learning. Students even participate in selecting the themes and problems they will study, and they often work together collaboratively.” (Klein 2006, p. 14).

Educators first explored the concept of integrating curriculum in the 1890s. Over the years, there have been numerous educational researchers, e.g., Susan Drake, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, James Beane and Gordon Vars, who have described various interpretations of curriculum integration, referring to the curriculum as interwoven, connected, thematic, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, correlated, linked and holistic. Many educators, e.g., Robin Fogarty, go beyond a single definition of curriculum integration and view it instead as a continuum. Furthermore, curriculum integration aims to improve students’ interdisciplinary understanding, defined as “the capacity to integrate knowledge and modes of thinking in two or more disciplines to produce cognitive advancement – e.g. explaining a phenomenon, solving a problem, creating a product, raising a new question – in ways that would have been unlikely through single disciplinary means.” (Klein 2006, p. 15) While the true origins of the theory of integration are numerous and wide-ranging, a general consensus identifies the work of German educator Johann Herbart (1776-1841) as the “germ” of the modern integration movement.

From Herbartian beginnings, the first half of the twentieth century saw a development of curriculum integration through the project approach, core curriculum...
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