13 Integrative Learning

Integrative learning focuses on making connections among disciplines, knowledge, experiences, people, and so on. It is the result of good teaching that practices the principles of interdisciplinarity:  blending different disciplinary expertise into a new whole.

Moti Nisssani uses a metaphor to explain the idea of interdisciplinarity that will help us understand integrative learning. Imagine each discipline is a different fruit. A colorfully filled fruit bowl is “multi-disciplinary” because even after having been tossed, the pieces of fruit (or disciplines) are just sitting next to each other.  In this scenario, if you took a bite of a blueberry that had rested against a pineapple, you would know it was a blueberry from its size, shape, texture, and the predominance of its distinctive flavor.  However, put the fruit into a blender and you have integrated their flavors, textures, and shapes into something that is very different from any of the fruits that you added.  (You can even boldly break-out of the fruit “family” and add an entirely new item like yogurt!)  Your smoothie now is an integrated product. The blender is the process of integrative learning – forcing what seemed different and disparate to come together into a new whole that is quite different from the ingredients.

Integrative learning at PSU also involves making other kinds of connections:

  • Between your classes, including between your major classes and your General Education classes;
  • Between your in-class and out of class academic experiences;
  • Between your academic and extra-curricular experiences;
  • Between your academic and residential life experiences;
  • Among faculty and students in different majors and disciplines;
  • Between faculty, staff, and students and people outside of the University;
  • And many more.

The goal of integrative learning at PSU is to make your educational experiences more meaningful by allowing you to see them as connected to the rest of your life.


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First Year Seminar Readings by Cathie LeBlanc is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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