Integrating Curriculum — Integrating learning Helps Students Prepare for Life

Summer vacation is over and schools are back in the swing of things!

The weather is just now turning a little colder and my thoughts are turning to the way our schools have organized themselves for a successful year. And because of the way our schools are regimented into class periods and time tables, I know that we can only do so much, given the format, course offerings, and schedules for most schools. However, the possibilities for integrating students, classrooms, subjects, grade levels and schools are an increasing source for new thinking and new ways of educating students to a higher level of success.

Although I am finishing up an 8-year study on integrating the arts, I realize that the power of integrating is not limited to art and other subjects, but rather to education for life. If the true purpose of education is to draw out the best learning from students, integration would seem to be one of the most important learning examples teachers could elicit from their students. So how could we put integration into the classroom without it seeming like a new trend we only talk about? Job-embedded professional development may help us.

In my work we have found a 40% increase in student achievement when evaluating the power of integrating the arts to improve student achievement in Rochester, NY (see the research section of this website). In this rigorous, randomized, treatment and control study of 35,000 students over 8 years, we also discovered that not only students learn better when integrating subjects and art, but also teachers learn better when arts teachers come into their classrooms and teach the students of regular classroom teachers by modeling arts integration, with great success. The classroom teachers we surveyed found this type of professional development, called “job-embedded,” makes a huge difference to them. These are the types of learning that regular classroom teachers want. They want people to show them how to integrate, then they want to try it themselves, and then they want some help in following up with the new methods.

And who in the profession of teaching does not want this for their teachers? I ask this question because the answer is fairly simple, “No one wants a one-time, forty-minute lecture on new methods.” What teachers want is to see are the new methods correctly delivered in their classrooms, with their particular students—and the teachers want to see, feel and smell the exciting results.

And who could blame them? They want tangible evidence that the new methods work because they want to prepare their students for life—for the process of learning to integrate in their jobs and homes. They need more models of good teaching and learning that are tangible. They want to see it working. For more on integrating the arts look at Edutopia magazine for more resources: “Whether you are looking for resources on integrating science, technology, engineering, and math or on infusing the arts to transform STEM into STEAM, this curated compilation will help you strategize around different approaches to integrated studies.”