CASTL Program - What is Integrative Learning?
Integrative learning can be thought of as the concept that learning can cause 1 + 1 to yield something more than 2. When we learn something new, it isn't just placed in isolation in our brain, but is instead available to combine with what we have learned before. Our minds use knowledge to build connections to existing knowledge to bring greater meaning to what we know, thus increasing the learning that takes place. New knowledge should connect with our existing knowledge to lead us to be able to ask new questions so we can learn even more. Also, when we are exposed to a range of subject matters and learning experiences - such as when attending a university, the opportunity for learning - well beyond the description of courses in the catalog is possible.
However, such learning is "unlikely to occur without commitment and creativity from our educational institutions." ( Integrative Learning: Mapping the Terrain, by Huber and Hutchings, p 3.) Faculty, administrators and professional staff must look beyond their subject matter to help students see and build connections with what they already know and have experienced to gain the most from their university experience and to develop strong habits and abilities to continue to learn throughout their lives.
"Learning that helps develop integrative capacities is important because it develops habits of mind that prepare students to make informed judgments in the conduct of personal, professional, and civic life." (Integrative Learning: Mapping the Terrain (2005) by Huber and Hutchings, p. 1 )
Universities must also provide a range of learning and skill development opportunities in order for integrative learning to flourish and for students to succeed in the 21 st century global community. Specific knowledge in a single discipline is not enough. Students will be working with people in different parts of the world and from different cultures, technology will continue to advance, and the need to be able to effectively and efficiently use information will continue to be challenging as that base of information grows. Students must also be able to communicate effectively in a variety of formats.
To help students achieve the level of learning and skill development needed to be successful today, they need to become intentional learners . They also need to be in a learning environment that is integrative, broad (where learning takes place both in and out of the classroom), and helps them develop and understand themselves. The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), of which SJSU is a member, has explained this type of learning through the concepts of intentional learners and liberal learning as explained next.