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Integrative and Interdisciplinary Learning

Developing students' capacities for integrative learning is central to personal success, social responsibility, and civic engagement in today's global society. Students face a rapidly-changing and ever-more-interconnected world, in which integrative learning becomes not just a benefit...but a necessity.
American Association of Colleges and Universities

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.


Engendering Habits of Mind and Heart Through Integrative Learning
Simone Himbeault Taylor. About Campus. November-December 2011.

Journal of Learning Communities Research
Emily Lardner and Gillies Malnarich, editors. Journal of Learning Communities Research 3:3. Dec. 2008/Jan. 2009.

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

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

Decoding the Disciplines: Helping Students Learn Disciplinary Ways of Thinking
David Pace and Joan Middendorf, editors. New Directions for Teaching and Learning. No. 98. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Summer 2004.

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

Innovations in Interdisciplinary Teaching
Carolyn Haynes, editor. Phoenix, AZ: American Council on Education Oryx Press. 2002.

Association for Integrative Studies

Integrative Learning Library
Washington Center website.

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

Complete list of resources