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Integrative learning

What is it?

Integrative learning is an approach where the learner brings together prior knowledge and experiences to support new knowledge and experiences. By doing this, learners draw on their skills and apply them to new experiences at a more complex level. The concept behind integrative learning is that students take ownership of their own learning, becoming critical inquiries who are able to make meaningful connections between different disciplines and utilise critical thinking to real-life problems (Mansilla, 2008). The Association of American Colleges & Universities (2007) describe integrative learning as being the key change in university education for the 21st century.

At Edith Cowan University, we use integrative learning techniques, such as Peet’s ‘Hidden Moments’ activity to help students recognise their own learning, drawing their knowledge from their previous experiences and give students opportunities to make connections between these experiences and the knowledge, skills and experiences that they have during their course. A practical outcome of using integrative learning methodology throughout a course is to help improve employability outcomes for students.

Adapted from Yorke and Knight (2004), pp.83-4.

A ‘CURRICULUM PLUS’ APPROACH: Embedding PDP in the Postgraduate Urban and Regional Planning Curriculum (Heriot Watt University)

In a postgraduate course for Urban and Regional Planning, students are immediately introduced to, and start using, their Professional Development Plan (PDP), which supports students course-long. Throughout the course, there are specific modules that require students to interact with their PDP, starting in their first term. In the third and final term, the PDP is used for assessment, where all work is consolidated to assist in students’ application for work.

The PDPs encourage students to see themselves as whole persons, integrating work experience, transferable and technical skills and outside activities. Students also peer-assess each other’s PDP one week in advance of the hand-in date, to suggest improvements and further promote learning.

Student feedback was very positive, even from those who admitted they were sceptical at the beginning. Students found the PDPs helped them reflect about and plan their learning, prepare for job applications and interviews and develop skills required by the Royal Town Planning Institute (who require PDPs for initial membership and continuous professional development). It was clear that different forms of PDP appealed to different students and many were extremely creative. Students were happy for the plans to be assessed. Staff also said that the PDPs helped them get to know students; many were truly “inspiring” and when read across the cohort, gave useful pointers about curriculum development.

Contact details Marilyn Higgins m.g.higgins@sbe.hw.ac.uk Tel: 0131 4513465

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