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Why Teach Using an Integrated Curriculum?

The exponential increase in information availability in recent times has made education using the “teaching-centered" education styles that predominate in America’s schools increasingly impossible (the so called "Upper Limit Hypothesis"; Branson, 1987).  Part of the solution to this problem has been suggested to be a fundamental redesign in teaching modalities to incorporate a more learning-centered model (Branson, 2001).  One such reform is being achieved through integrated curriculum units that move the teaching mode away from rote memorization of isolated facts and figures toward building thinking and problem-solving skills that appeal to multiple intelligences and build long-term understanding and insight through integrating learning between curricular areas (Lake, 1994).

In a comprehensive review of the literature, Hartzler (2000) showed that students taught using an integrated curriculum consistently performed better than students taught using “traditional” methods, as measured both by internal assessment measures and by performance on state or national standardized tests. Indeed numerous studies have demonstrated that teaching using integrated curricula results in "greater intellectual curiosity, improved attitude towards schooling, enhanced problem-solving skills and higher achievement in college" (Loepp, 1999). There is such broad support for the success of integrated curricula as pedagogical tools that in their "Project 2061: Benchmarks for Science Literacy," the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences called for an interdisciplinary, integrated development of knowledge organized around themes that cut across various science disciplines, mathematics, social studies, and technology (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993)

Part of the curricular revolution that led to the appreciation of the value of interdisciplinary instruction began with the recognition that "telling isn't teaching." Teaching using integrated curricula encourages beginning each lesson with a question or problem through which understanding of the desired concept(s) may emerge through effective questioning and facilitation on the part of the teacher. Study of invasive species creates many exciting opportunities for integrated classroom teaching and building critical-thinking skills. The ambiguities that exist around the positive and negative aspects of species like Phragmites, and the costs as well as benefits that can accompany their management, make study of species like this an ideal focus for building dialogue between students and increasing metacognition within student learners.

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© Louise Wootton. Last updated April 2009

 Although the information in this document has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement NE97262206  to Georgian Court   University, it has not gone through the Agency's publications review process and, therefore, may not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred.