Curricular Framework: 2014 Institute on Integrative Learning and the Departments

“Just as the measure of a human brain is not its number of neurons but rather the density of interconnections between them, so is the long-term value of an education to be found not merely in the accumulation of knowledge or skills but in the capacity to forge fresh connections between them, to integrate different elements from one’s education and experience and bring them to bear on new challenges and problems.”

The Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (2012)

The Institute curriculum is designed to help teams advance their own educational change projects while engaging with national educational leaders and with teams similarly committed to building students’ integrative learning capacities. Institute sessions will be based upon the expected needs of the teams, their proposed projects, the expertise of the Institute faculty, and AAC&U’s long-standing work in advancing contemporary liberal education. While topics will be refined to reflect the projects of the accepted campus teams, the Institute schedule will include the following components.

An opening plenary will set the context for the Institute with a discussion of integrative learning as a hallmark of twenty-first-century liberal education and the parallel integrative structures needed to support faculty and ensure that all students learn at high levels.

There are four themes of sessions (team members are encouraged to disperse among the themes according to interests and needs):

Theme 1: Integrative Curricula and Learning as Hallmarks of Liberal Education
This theme will explore characteristics and outcomes of integrative learning that reflect students’ intellectual and personal development. Participants will explore the foundational underpinnings supporting integrative learning; investigate the value and challenges of bridging disciplinary, multidisciplinary, and interdisciplinary studies; and develop “pathways” that connect general education to the major and meet departmental goals in the sciences, arts and humanities, and social sciences.

Theme 2: Programs and Pedagogies
This theme will focus on pedagogical strategies that foster integrative learning and promote student development. Participants will integrate student learning through the curriculum and cocurriculum; link integrative learning to other outcomes, such as global, diversity, and civic learning; tie effective educational practices to professional programs and career preparation; and foster inquiry-based and community-based learning across disciplines through signature assignments.

Theme3: Building Capacity for Authentic Assessment

This theme will focus on the connections between assessment and the improvement of learning, with particular emphasis on integrative learning. Participants will brainstorm and plan assignments to assess integrative learning; use assessment results to improve practice; and design milestone and capstone assessments for existing curricular offerings.

Theme 4: Faculty and Administrative Leadership for Integrative Learning
This theme will focus on developing the capacity of faculty and administrators to advance robust integrative learning goals in and across departments. Participants will explore how to navigate the landscape of educational change; shape departmental cultures for teaching and learning; support and reward engaged teaching; leverage committees and task forces; build partnerships across campus; and use the roles of dean and department chair to advance faculty curricular leadership.

A closing plenary will explore next steps for engaging colleagues with the action plans developed by teams during the Institute and include reflections on critical issues related to integrative learning and educational change.

From Planning to Campus Action
Experience has shown that preparing action plans helps teams make significant progress in addressing the issues that originally prompted them to attend the Institute. During their time in California, teams will each outline the goals, activities, and timeline for their work following the Institute. They will present their plans to Institute faculty and other teams and receive feedback before heading back to campus.

Example of last year's Curriculum/Schedule can be found here.

Questions may be directed to Chad Anderon at or 202-884-7429.