Beyond Interdisciplinary to Integrated Learning
Today, most educational institutions and educational research erroneously employ the words integration and interdisciplinary as synonyms to describe either a learning theory or curricular design process. While the latter correctly describes the combination of two or more fields of study along unifying concepts, the former is more rightly used to describe learning that occurs both inside and outside the classroom that leads to the holistic development of an individual in all realms- cognitive, social, psychological, emotional, and spiritual.
Interdisciplinary education seeks to create learning experiences that cross subject matter lines through unifying concepts and meaningful activities in the classroom. The anticipated learning objective is that the learner will gain knowledge and skills that will be transferable to real-life situations at some point in the future. This learning is what we at Trivium would call “just in case” learning. While this is a noble objective, the learning still occurs in an academic environment and may or may not be relevant for a particular learner. For most learners, that which is not applicable to their specific circumstance in life is soon forgotten.
Integrated learning has as its objective the well-being and the education of the individual as a whole-- body, mind, and spirit. Truly integrated learning can, and often does, transcend the classroom environment and occurs when we encounter new circumstances or situations for which we have no frame of reference, experience, skills, or solutions. These circumstances in life become opportunities for learning and require the learner to stop and consider the knowledge or skills he or she lacks and ascertain how they might be acquired. At Trivium, we would call this type of learning “just in time” learning. Learning that takes place in these situations is relevant to the individual and is often retained and transferable to other circumstances in the future.
Our Lord Jesus often employed integrated learning methods to teach his disciples about the Kingdom of God as circumstances presented themselves “along the way” in life and ministry. Sometimes the circumstances that he used might have seemed insignificant or even inconvenient to those around him. In Luke 18: 15-17, the disciples are trying to shew away the parents who are asking Jesus to bless their children, rebuking them for bothering the Lord. But Jesus takes the opportunity to not only bless the children, but to teach that children are valuable to the Lord, and to teach the hearers that a child-like trust and faith is required to enter the Kingdom.
As educators, pastors, and leaders, we should learn to employ what educators call the “teachable moment” to help the learner/disciple to come to full maturity in the Lord, taking advantage of every opportunity to teach the Jesus way. Training others to live for and in Christ will require more from us than the preparation of a lesson, a teaching or a sermon. We will have to invest our time, our talent, and treasures for the advancement of the Kingdom one soul at a time. We must become devoted to living life-on-life with those to whom God has called us.
(1) interdisciplinary. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved March 1, 2018 from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/interdisciplinary
(2) integration. (n.d.). Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Retrieved March 1, 2018 from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/integration
Linda Brady is the Director of Program Development of The Trivium Institute for Leader Development, as well as Site Director of the campus of The Trivium Institute in Bedford, New Hampshire. Linda and her husband Jack serve as part of the Pastoral Team at Trinity Life Community under Pastors Tom & Cathy Johnston. Linda is an educationist whose experience includes the founding and development of two Christian middle-high schools in Massachusetts, and serving as a professor for the New England Bible Institute, Momentum School for Leadership, and Crucible Emerging Leader Network, also in Massachusetts.
She received her Masters of Adult Education and Training from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine and is a PhD candidate with Walden University. Linda has authored two books on research and writing. Linda and her husband Jack reside in New Hampshire with their dog Gracie. They have two wonderful sons Matthew and Patrick, two daughters-in-love Lindsay and Tracey, and two beautiful granddaughters Anabelle and Lilah.