Integration of learning: Meaning making for undergraduates through connection, application, and synthesis
Integration of learning has widely become recognized as an essential educational outcome for U.S. college students in the twenty-first century. This study investigates integration of learning as a collegiate outcome, defined as the demonstrated ability to link various skills and knowledge learned in a variety of contexts. A grounded theory approach was used to investigate the primary research question of how integration of learning develops in college students, identifying the smaller "microsteps" of development within integration of learning. This qualitative study focused on integration of learning among college freshmen by examining 194 interviews with 97 students (one interview at the beginning of their first year and another in the fall of the sophomore year) at two liberal arts colleges. These interviews were collected as part of the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education. There were 577 examples of integration identified among the 194 interviews.
Two conceptual frames were used in this study to investigate integration of learning: self-authorship and transfer of learning. Three distinct types of integration of learning emerged from analyzing the data: (a) Connection , the discovery of a similarity between ideas which themselves remain distinctive; (b) Application, the use of knowledge from one context in another; and (c) Synthesis, the creation of new knowledge by combining two or more insights. These three categories comprised the main microsteps of integration of learning.
A longitudinal analysis of these data showed a trend toward diversification of integrative method over time. In the second-year interviews, there were more examples of integration of learning, which were more evenly distributed among the three types of integration. This trend was also evident in developmental analyses. From a constructive-developmental perspective, students with a more advanced, internally-grounded level of self-authorship used the three types of integration of learning more equally than students with a less advanced developmental orientation. The contexts in which integration of learning happened varied widely and examples often bridged more than one context, indicating an intercontextual quality of integration of learning. Implications for practice are offered, which educators can use toward promoting the connection, application, and synthesis emblematic of integration of learning.
0727: Curriculum development
0745: Higher education