Deep and Integrative Learning

Integrative learning is a process where students draw on diverse viewpoints, understand issues contextually, make connections between knowledge and skills from multiple sources/experiences, and adapt and apply learning in varied settings. Integrative learning may be formatted via interdisciplinary courses/programs, pedagogies that link theory to practice, or discipline-based course that draw from diverse or conflicting points of view within the discipline.  Fink (2003)  describes a new taxonomy of significant learning that envisions six kinds of significant learning: 

  • foundational knowledge: key concepts, principles, relationships, facts
  • application:  multiple ways of thinking about the subject and learning how to manage a complex project, 
  • integration:  identifying similarities & interactions between content knowledge, ideas, people, 
  • human dimension: interacting with self and others in new ways; discovering personal and social implications of new knowledge,
  • caring:  changing one’s interests, feeling, or values related to a subject, 
  • learning how to learn:  how to construct knowledge and become a self-directed learner.

Evidence Base for Deep and Integrative Learning:


Bransford, John D. et. al., eds. (2000). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School, Expanded Edition. Washington D.C.: National Academy Press.

Fink, L. Dee. (2003). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: an Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

Leskes, Andrea and Ross Miller (2006). Purposeful Pathways: Helping Students Achieve Key Learning Outcomes. Washington DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities. This publication describes how colleges and high schools can work together to design powerful and sequential learning—‘purposeful pathways’—for integrative learning, inquiry learning, global learning, and civic learning outcomes.