Connected Science: Strategies for Integrative Learning in College

Connected Science: Strategies for Integrative Learning in College

Connected Science: Strategies for Integrative Learning in College

Connected Science: Strategies for Integrative Learning in College


Informed by the scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL), Connected Science presents a new approach to college science education for the 21st century. This interdisciplinary approach stresses integrative learning and pedagogies that engage students through open-ended inquiry, compelling real-world questions, and data-rich experiences. Faculty from a variety of disciplines and institutions present case studies based on research in the classroom, offering insights into student learning goals and best practices in curriculum design. Synthetic chapters bring together themes from the case studies, present an overview of the connected science approach, and identify strategies and future challenges to help move this work forward.


Mary Taylor Huber and Pat Hutchings

THIS BOOK EMERGES from the intersection of two important reform initiatives in higher education. The first involves the growth of a scholarship of teaching and learning among faculty across disciplines, and the second concerns the support of integrative learning among undergraduates across their college careers.

The combination of these two developments can be powerful: faculty look closely and critically at classroom practice and student work in order to better understand and help students develop as integrative learners, able to connect their emerging knowledge, skills, and commitments across diverse settings. By asking questions about their students’ learning, seeking evidence to answer those questions, using that information to improve instruction, and engaging colleagues with what they are finding, these faculty are not only creating better learning experiences in their classrooms and programs but also contributing to knowledge and field building around what it means to teach with “integrative learning” in mind.

This focus is timely, because integrative learning has become central to the effort at colleges and universities in the United States and beyond to rethink and redesign liberal education for the 21st century. While educators have long endorsed the value of integration, the burden has traditionally fallen on the learner, with campuses assuming that bright students would be able to pull together the pieces of their education on their own. Recent thinking about liberal education has taken a different stance. What’s new is the conviction that institutions should make this a goal for all students, and do what they can through the curriculum, cocurriculum, pedagogy, and assessment to help them realize the importance of integration and to have multiple opportunities to practice and perfect the needed skills (Huber and Hutchings, 2005).

The needs and opportunities are, perhaps, especially great in the science fields. Many of the 21st century’s most pressing challenges—climate change, energy policy, food and water sufficiency, public health, medicine, information security—have strong science components that span multiple disciplines. Higher education must attract and graduate a larger and more diverse group of professionals in science; it must develop their capacities for interdisciplinary synthesis and cross-disciplinary collaboration; and—beyond those professional scientists, technologists, engineers . . .

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