Higgs, Bettie and Hall, Brendan (2008) INTEGRATING CONCEPTS OF INTEGRATIVE LEARNING. In: Emerging Issues ii: Changing Roles and Identities. UNSPECIFIED.


In contemporary higher education, there is significant potential for students to have a  fragmentary learning experience. Integrative learning, which Huber and Hutchings (2004, p.  13) describe as connecting skills and knowledge from multiple sources and experiences,  may be one way to address this issue. Indeed, it may help students get the most out of their undergraduate experience and prepare for what lies ahead.   At University College Cork (UCC), an investigation of student engagement in a geoscience  field course designed to foster integrative learning concluded that all students in the course benefited from intentional teaching for integrative learning (Higgs, 2006; 2007; and see also  chapter 4 in this volume). But the study also revealed that not all students will go all the  way to make meaningful connections, even when multiple opportunities are provided. These  students may fall into Ritchhart's (2002) ability-action gap. To foster integrative learning  more effectively, teachers may require a deeper understanding not only of the complex  opportunities students need to connect, but also of how to help them overcome the gap between their abilities and their motivation to act.   Huber and Hutchings (2004; 2005) warn, however, that unless teachers become integrative  thinkers, modelling integrative learning, we are unlikely to encourage our students to be  integrative learners. The work of campuses involved in the Integrative Learning Project  (Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2004-07) and analysis by senior scholars  at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (Gale, 2006; Huber, 2006;  Hutchings, 2006; Miller, 2006), confirm this. They suggest that integrating pedagogies and  integrating modes of assessment may provide new ways to encourage integrative learning. In addition, we find that the concept of integrative learning overlaps with several neighbouring  concepts, and that by investigating these overlaps, and integrating concepts, we may see innovative possibilities for fostering integrative learning.   This chapter considers how attempts to promote integrative learning can be informed by an  exploration of these overlapping concepts. The chapter expands on the metaphor of  wormholes, (introduced in Chapter 4 this volume) which the authors have found  particularly illuminating as a model of integrative learning and as a practical device for helping students to make connections between apparently disparate areas of knowledge.  From this starting point, the chapter aims to align metaphors and conceptual models - such as wormholes, troublesome knowledge, threshold concepts and border crossings - and find  new knowledge at the intersections. In so doing, it hopes to extend our understandings of integrative learning and inform intentional teaching for integrative learning.

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