Integrative Learning: A Grounded Theory

No Thumbnail Available




Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Association for Interdisciplinary Studies


This article reports the findings from a study of undergraduate students in an academic program focused on integrative learning rather than interdisciplinarity. One aspect of this study included how students defined integrative learning. This participant-shaped understanding of integrative learning was broad and reflected a continuum of integration. The researcher labeled the four forms of integration in this continuum Application, Comparison, Understanding Context, and Synthesis. A developmental theory of how students become integrative learners emerged from the investigation. Students engaged in Application when they found course work personally relevant and meaningful; students performed Comparison when they learned to identify and evaluate multiple perspectives; students who evaluated competing claims or engaged conflicting viewpoints were Understanding Context. If conflict was reconciled, Synthesis was possible, but not achieved. Synthesis is the most complex form of integration and, although students agreed Synthesis is an ideal, they did not report examples of experiences that demonstrated this capacity. This article compares the learning outcomes of an academic program that privileges integrative learning with the outcomes of programs that are intentionally interdisciplinary.



Integrative learning, Interdisciplinary learning, College students, Student development


Leonard, Jeannie Brown. "Integrative Learning: A Grounded Theory." Issues in Integrative Studies 30 (2012): 48-74.