Integrative and Interdisciplinary Learning

Learning communities offer students multiple opportunities to make connections across courses and contexts in order to address relevant issues and problems. In doing so, learning communities help students develop a critical capacity for civic life. The Association of American Colleges and Universities continues to identify integrative learning as one of four essential learning outcomes for all undergraduates.

Historically, learning communities have helped foster both integrative and interdisciplinary learning and thinking. Faculty participating in Washington Center’s national project on Assessing Learning in Learning Communities wrestled with the distinction between integrative and interdisciplinary learning. Ultimately, the distinction that was most useful was one that identified interdisciplinary learning as a subset of integrative learning, where the materials being integrated were disciplinary in nature.

Participants in Assessing Learning in Learning Communities discovered that well designed assignments inviting integrative moves were critical. Without these explicit invitations to make connections, students often were engaged in what came to be called “parallel play”. Productive shifts in practice resulting from this project are reported in the Journal of Learning Community Research.


Learning Communities Research and Practice (LCRP)

Designing Integrated Learning for Students: A Heuristic for Teaching, Assessment and Curriculum Design (PDF)
Gillies Malnarich and Emily Lardner. Washington Center Occasional Paper. Winter 2003

Assessing Student Work at Disciplinary Crossroads (PDF)
Veronica Boix-Mansilla. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning. January/February 2005

A Statement on Integrative Learning (PDF)
Association of American Colleges & Universities and The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. March 2004.

Integrative Learning VALUE Rubric
American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U)

Association for Integrative Studies