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Integrative Learning

Updated on February 9, 2017


Knowledge is a boundless and intimidating thing for people to approach. Human rote memory is not powerful enough to grasp the intricacies of how everything in the universe works together. Thankfully, academia has broken down this information into manageable portions known as fields or areas of study, each of which is understood to overlap with others, but is taught as its own separate entity. While this approach makes learning easier, the connectivity of all fields is lost and many students find themselves struggling to apply the information they have learned in a real world setting. Integrative learning attempts to correct this issue by connecting people in different fields to address common goals.

Separation and Integration of Knowledge

Education is segmented for easy processing in the minds of students. As the Association of American Colleges and Universities (n. d.) states, education is a “fragmented landscape.” This separation of fields is a necessary evil or even the most powerful minds would not be able to grasp the complex issues at play in the universe. However, in fields with practical goals such as nursing, students need to be prepared for the inevitable cross over of other fields.

The real world has blurred edges throughout, and no clear distinctions between fields. It does not matter how hard one has studied one field, if a situation arises that requires knowledge in another area, someone with that knowledge must be brought it. This mixing of different systems is the way the universe is meant to work, and anyone hoping to affect real change will understand this concept. Real world integration of skills is needed for students who wish to impact the world in any practical way (Dezure, n. d.).

A field journal is both academic and practical. It is, in fact, an academic way that students may attempt to learn about practical issues they may face in the real world. When students read field journals such as the work by Kidder (2009) they engage in a different form of learning: one that is holistic and presents them with a large amount of information within a situation so that they can see and comprehend the ambiguities or blurred edges between their field and whatever else might come up on the job. It is an educational approach to the real world, and though no member of a different discipline may be present while reading a field journal, it is still a form of interdisciplinary learning since it teaches by showing the student the value of integrative education with real world examples.


There exists a need to separate and to integrate knowledge, but at different times in a student’s experience. Students of nursing, who work in a practical field and are expected to do their work in real world setting, will certainly experience the need for integrative learning. By exposing students to interdisciplinary study early in their education, educators help ensure that the next generation of nurses will be prepared for the undefined situations in which they may find themselves.


Association of American Colleges and Universities (n. d.). Statement on integrative learning. Retrieved July 15, 2016 from chromeextension://bpmcpldpdmajfigpchkicefoigmkfalc/views/app.html

DeZure, D. (n. d.). Interdisciplinary teaching and learning. Retrieved July 15, 2016 from

Kidder, T. (2009). Mountains beyond mountains: the quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a man who would cure the world. New York, NY: Random House.


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