Tuesday 16 October 2012

The Integrative School

“If not now, when?"

By: Marie Lardino
B.A, B.Ed, M.Ed
Voice Integrative School
Toronto, Canada

    Until today, I continue to search for brief explanations when asked to describe an integrative education model. This remains for me, a significant challenge. The scope and interconnectedness that a such a model entails cannot be narrowed down to a few sentences.  In general, my feelings have been that concise descriptions detract from its scope, from the value of its interconnected parts.  And even after having gained the theoretical language to describe this classroom (or a school), I have to this day been unsuccessful in achieving a condensed definition that does it justice.  I can however, qualify its parts through my students’ (and their parents’) perspectives. They have repeatedly expressed that an integrative education is challenging, reflective, academic, empowering, relevant and all-encompassing.  

     I believe that it is challenging because it thoroughly covers curricular content - in our case, the Ontario Curriculum - yet challenges students to discover relationships and connections among the topics that make up this content. 
     It is relevant because it infuses the curriculum with issues that pertain to the lives of students (from personal to local to global) and which involve technological, social and economic issues, environment, health, conflict and peace, human rights, and humane education (among others). It is also challenging because it offers students with opportunities to participate in a wide range of subjects, some of which are found outside the scope of a standardized curriculum. And it offers classes in dance, visual arts, life skills, languages, philosophy, theatre, cooking, debate, and much more. The insistence here, is to offer students opportunities to take risks in many subject areas in order for them to discover their strengths and talents as well as their areas of potential growth. 
     It is reflective because it inspires students to embark on two journeys. The journey outward leads students to explore the world in which they live, while the journey inwards heightens their understanding of themselves and their potential.

    It is academic because it insists on the acquisition of basic skills to tackle all core subjects; however, these are reinforced with ‘higher order’ skills. They are: critical thinking, analysis, creativity, time management, organization, research, team-work, collaboration, independence, etc. 
      In addition, an integrative education offers perspectives and strategies that are not commonly found in many schools, yet are critical to the leaning needs of most students. 
        Notwithstanding, the years I have spent putting this vision into practice have continually forced me to revisit the term “global education” which is the theory that initially guided my teaching practice. What has come to light since, is that “global” defined within an educational framework, is simply the inclusion of all that can be made possible to address the academic learning needs of the whole student.
     “Integrative”, when viewed as synonymous to 'big, interdependent ideas' relates more to the creation of educational environments where connections between areas of studies are addressed, balanced, issues aware, democratic, perspective driven, and which involve several teaching and learning approaches dedicated to reaching the learning needs of most students. This foundation is essential to promote all else. 

That said, person-hood and student-hood must be seen as intricately interconnected - both equally anchored in educational goals that hope to foster the skills needed to think critically, acquire well rounded academic knowledge, problem solve
and put creative and analytical thinking abilities to work. These are the tools needed to tackle personal responsibility and a future that embraces life-long learning . 

Note: this blog entry was edited by Marie Lardinoon July 23, 2023 from its original version published  in 2012.