What We Teach
Why Integrated Curriculum?
What is the best way to present content that is engaging and relevant? Presenting course content in an integrated manner promotes both depth and transfer of knowledge. Capitalizing on the natural relationships between subjects and disciplines provides for the reinforcement of knowledge and skills.
Students may not be to apply knowledge across different disciplines on their own. Instructors should be actively searching for opportunities to increase instructional interconnections to provide deeper and more meaningful instructional experiences. Integrated curriculum also provides for increased opportunities for individualization of content. Integrated topics provide more breadth of context, demonstrating to students a wider perspective of content relationships.
The purpose of creating integrated curriculum is not to force academic content into technical courses or vice versa. Instead, instructors should look for opportunities to capitalize on concepts that are naturally embedded in course content. For example, a unit in which students draft plans for and build a structure, investigate its environmental impact, document the building process, and develop a budget would involve the use of skills and concepts drawn from courses in English, mathematics, construction trades, drafting and/or design, and biology.
An integrated approach recognizes that:
- Students don't want to learn in a vacuum.
- Students are motivated by "how is this course relevant to my future career?"
- Understanding real-world connections to course content increases student engagement.
The benefits of integrated instruction include:
- Integration of career and technical content and academic concepts.
- Technical context helps students connect academic concepts to real-world applications.
- Use of real-world scenarios and problem to catch students' attention and make content relevant.
- Fosters critical thinking, collaboration and other skills valued by employers.
- Encourages instructors to use active, authentic assessment techniques.
Integrated Curriculum Building Blocks
When creating integrated instruction for adult learners there are three fundamental skill/competencies that need to be addressed:
- Academic Skills - reading, writing, speaking, mathematics, etc.
- Technical Skills - industry-specific occupational skills
- Employability Skills - "soft" skills needed for getting and keeping a job
Industry-specific technical skills are those skills required for certification on the required expertise levels determined by a certifying association or organization. Technical skills are also referred to as those skills necessary to perform specialized occupational tasks.
Technical Skills Resources
Professional organizations or trade associations
Local workforce or economic development board
U.S. Department of Labor's O*NET
U.S. Department of Labor's CareerOneStop
Employability skills are those essential for success at all levels of employment across all sectors. Sometimes these skills are referred to as 21st Century skills, soft skills, career-readiness skills, or SCANS skills.
Local business and industry advisors can be contacted for input on:
- Curriculum integration ideas
- Real-world scenarios, problems, case-studies
- Workplace knowledge, skills, and attitudes
- Technology integration ideas
- Authentic assessment ideas (e.g. research presentation to industry panel; demonstration of skills)
- Opportunities for job shadowing, career fairs, and internships
- Role models/mentoring
- Voices from the field—guest speakers
Employability Skills Resources
Local workforce or economic development board
U.S. Department of Education Employability Skills Framework
The Framework is comprised of nine key skills, organized in three broad categories:
Applied Knowledge—the thoughtful integration of academic knowledge and technical skills, put to practical use in the workplace.
Effective Relationships—the interpersonal skills and personal qualities that enable individuals to interact effectively with clients, coworkers, and supervisors.
Workplace Skills—the analytical and organizational skills and understandings that employees need to successfully perform work tasks.
Framework For 21st Century Learning
This model, from Education for Life and Work, supports basic skills and soft skills development. It was developed by a panel from the fields of education, psychology, and economics. They feel that the essential "21st-Century Skills" lead to deeper learning.
Developing an authentic workplace context is an important part of integrated curriculum design. Creating real-world scenarios provide students with relevant connections to the academic, technical and employability skills presented in a lesson.
- Contain fact-based stories—may be from the news or invented (but must be plausible)
- Set up the real-world context in which the lesson/project takes place
- Prepare students to examine a complex situation
- Illustrate the need for using an integrated, multi-disciplinary approach
Sixteen Career Pathways Scenarios
Integrated Lesson Design/Templates
Explore integrated lesson design elements by reviewing these integrated lesson templates. Use the templates to practice the development of lessons that allow students to benefit from the integration of academic, technical and employability concepts that are presented through authentic real-world applications.
Completing an integrated project synopsis is a good way to brainstorm and organize preliminary integrated lesson ideas.
Integrated Project Synopsis
A blank and completed integrated lesson template are provided below.
Integrated Lesson Template
Sample Completed Integrated Lesson Template
The STEM Transitions curriculum development initiative, led by CORD, has developed 61 integrated curriculum projects for use in math, science, and technical courses to engage students in six Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics-related career clusters.
Capitalizing on Context: Curriculum Integration in Career and Technical Education
NRCCTE Curriculum Integration Workgroup, The National Research Center for Career and Technical Education at the Southern Regional Education Board. Addresses questions such as "Why Integration?" "What is Curriculum Integration?" and "What Makes Integration Work?"
Curriculum Integration Research: Re-examining Outcomes and Possibilities for the 21st Century Classroom
Michigan Department of Education, Office of Education Improvement and Innovation.
This article was produced by the Michigan Department of Education for a secondary education audience, but offers a great introduction, overview and endorsement of integrated instruction for all education levels.