What is Integrative Learning?

experiencial learning

What is Integrative Learning?

Our present education paradigm is based on the intellectual culture of the enlightenment and the economic structure of the Industrial Revolution. It therefore resembles a manufacturing process that “delivers” products based on the perceived needs of a consumer society.

It is our perspective that an entirely new context for education is needed. That context is based on: 1) a deep comprehension that the welfare of the individual is directly linked to the welfare of the whole, and that 2) people need to understand the consequences of living in a culture that is transitioning into a resource-limited paradigm.

What do young people and students need to know in order to navigate this new territory? And what educational processes are coherent with the acquisition of this knowledge?

A context that has yet to be fully recognized is one where adults and teachers view children and learners (of all ages) as possessing their own unique gifts and talents, enabling them to make contributions based on their particular capacities and aspirations. We perceive that each human being has his/her own great work centered on where his/her gifts intersect with the world’s needs.

Absent from industrial education is the contextual relationship and integrative comprehension of humanity’s connection to: all that was, all that is, and all that will be. The starting point for understanding these insights begins when one provides children/learners with the largest possible perspective in order for them to see and explore humanity’s role in the evolving Earth.

To explore how our M.Ed. programs in Integrative Learning and Montessori Integrative Learning respond to these objectives, we developed a list of descriptive, or key words, that we use to describe both our content and process. We then reviewed the work our students over the last 16 years and added their descriptive words as well.

It is our intention over the next year to explore in depth each one of these ideas. We also welcome insights from readers of this column. Eventually we will host an eConference on the results of this exploration.

Dialogue (In what ways does this process consider individual perspectives: what people value and why?)

Contextural relationships

Cosmological framework (How is the story of the universe relevant to how we perceive our lives in the 21st century?)

Ecological framework

Macrophase wisdom

The Gaia Theory

Sustainability and Education

Systems thinking

Montessori teaching and learning

Spirituality in education (What elements of heart-based understanding contribute to the development of inner peace?)

Learning community (How can shared meaning evolve across the planet?)


Developmental education (What Maria Montessori called "the four planes of development." How does knowledge of these developmental planes impact the way we establish learning environments?)

Freedom within Limits

Reflective Questioning

Creativity and Creative Emergence


Chaos Theory

Collaborative work


Prepared environment

Normalized Learner (What Montessori called normalization may be compared to a sense of awareness that is integral to inner and outer happiness. This heightened awareness develops in a specially prepared environment/atmosphere. How does activity, prolonged concentration and meaningful work– guided by professional teacher-observers who understand the developmental needs of the learner- contribute to the normalization process?)

Transformative learning

Mutual process

eCampus Mediated Learning (In what ways do these written dialogues allow an intimate and intentional weaving of the collective consciousness that is not accessible when a room full of scholars are jockeying for intellectual positions?)

Integrative-holistic Learning

Great Work

Autopoietic System (of learning)

Organic Leadership

Exploration and Discovery

Organic process

Reflective Observation

Autonomy (How does individual responsibility evolve within the learning collaborative?)

Earth Systems Science

Self-direction and Individual Creativity

Structural Coupling

Adolescence (In what ways might this group hold a key for human transformation?)

Non-adversarial Teacher-Learner relationship (What is an encouraging and dialogic relationship?)

This is our starting point for the exploration; we are sure over time the list will be continually reorganized. As one reads through these keywords one notices that we have not made an attempt at this point to differentiate among, process, content and context. But then again, What is integrative learning?

We look forward to hearing from those of you who would like to contribute; and we anticipate to our own further explorations as we seek to explain these terms in more detail.

Marsha Snow Morgan M.A. Philip Snow Gang Ph.D.
Core Faculty and Co-Directors of TIES at Endicott College

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