of Literature on Curriculum Integration
integration of Jewish and general studies has been identified as
a common goal of many Jewish day schools, particularly those in
the Modern Orthodox and non-Orthodox movements (Pomson, 1996; Solomon,
1984). Yet, researchers of Modern Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform
Jewish education have all indicated that integration efforts in
the day schools affiliated with these movements have generally
been a source of disappointment (Bieler, 1986; Lukinsky, 1978;
Zeldin, 1992). Pomson claims that the failure of integration programs
often relates to the complexity of the subject matter, the backgrounds
of the teachers, the perspectives of the students, and/or the prevailing
values of the community. We will return later to consider these
assertions. However, before analyzing factors that hinder integration,
it would be worthwhile to examine the basic assumptions of curriculum
integration and the goals of integration in the day school.
educators are motivated to foster curriculum integration for both
academic and ideological reasons. Such integration offers several
potential academic benefits:
integration fosters the ongoing reinforcement of skills and information
learned in one area of study when utilized in another area.
integration provides students a richer academic experience by broadening
the context and applicability of information and skills that are
integration maximizes the utilization of learning time by “borrowing” from
one area to support another. This is particularly important in
Jewish day schools where educators face time pressures in all curricular
ideological level, curriculum integration helps to create holistic
students who are able to see the relevance of their Judaism in
all areas of their lives. This prevents compartmentalization in
which students separate between the religious and secular aspects
of their lives. Such separation can lead to competition between
the two worlds, with the Jewish component often losing out.
Is Integration ?
find valuable insights into the issue of curriculum integration
in the literature in general education. A common misconception
among Jewish educators is that curriculum integration by definition
involves interdisciplinary study. Fogarty (1991) identifies ten
models of integration that fall into three general categories:
within single disciplines, 2) integration across several disciplines,
and 3) integration within and across learners. She defines the
goal of integration as follows: “to help young minds discover roots
running underground whereby contrary and remote things cohere and
flower out from one stem.” (p. 61)
integration represents a way of thinking rather than simply an
overlapping of curriculum. Perkins and Salomon (1984) utilize the
term “transfer” to describe this way of thinking. They distinguish
between “learning” and “transfer”. "Learning" is characterized
by the ability of the student to demonstrate performance in a context
that is more or less the same as the learning situation. “Transfer” takes
place when the student is able to apply knowledge acquired to different
situations. A classical example of learning without transfer is
often seen in Hebrew language instruction. Parents often wonder
how their children could have received good grades in Hebrew language
for 12 years and still be unable to function in a Hebrew-speaking
society. In all likelihood, the children's instruction and assessment
remained within the context of the classroom. As a result, they
are unable to transfer their knowledge of Hebrew to other contexts.
following three exercises represent different levels of learning
and transfer for children who are learning multiplication tables
in the study of mathematics:
x 8 =
an apple costs 8 cents, how much would it cost to buy 6 apples
far would a car travelling 60 miles per hour travel in 8 hours
child who can only answer the first question has learned the material,
but has not demonstrated transfer. The student who is able to answer
the second question demonstrates a certain level of transfer. Mastery
of the third question reflects an even greater degree of transfer.
example illustrates, the levels of transfer achieved in given learning
situations can vary. Perkins and Saloman (1984) have identified
two typologies of transfer, “low road transfer” and “high road
transfer”. Low road transfer involves spontaneous, automatic transfer
of highly practiced skills with little need for reflective thinking.
High road transfer involves an explicit formulation of abstraction
in one situation that enables making a connection to another context.
These authors make a further distinction in high road transfer
between “forward reaching transfer” and “backward reaching transfer”.
In forward reaching transfer, abstractions are formulated in the
initial learning that allows for future application. In backward
reaching transfer, students formulate an abstraction guiding their
reaching back to past experience for relevant connections.
this model in mind, we can better understand Fogarty's assertion
that integration can take place within one discipline. For example,
Talmud study by itself provides an excellent opportunity for promoting
high road transfer. The Gemara often gives the student a dispute
in a legal case and then tries to abstract the principle behind
the dispute. Theories are tested by application to other cases.
Similarly, in geography, the student may be encouraged to apply
concepts from the study of the development of a city in ancient
times to the study of a more modern city. Conversely, our understanding
of the concept of transfer can also help to explain the failure
of many attempts at interdisciplinary integration. Simply reading The
Giving Tree or studying a science unit on trees in conjunction
with Tu Bishvat does not ensure that high road transfer takes place.
As Brophy and Alleman (1991) assert, “An activity is appropriate
because it promotes progress toward significant educational goals,
not merely because it cuts across subject-matter lines.” (p. 66)
Integration Be Taught ?
to Perkins and Salomon (1984), teachers can foster or hinder transfer
in their instruction. A focus on content oriented questions and
analysis tends to thwart the process of transfer. Transfer, however,
can be encouraged through processes that the authors (1988) refer
to as “hugging” and “bridging”. Hugging is a method of fostering
low road transfer. In hugging, teachers present material in a manner
that creates resemblance conditions leading to a similarity of
context. Thus, if teachers wants students to transfer concepts
learned in biology to ecology, they will frame the ecology lesson
in a way that accents the contextual similarity. Bridging is a
technique that encourages high road transfer. In bridging, the
teacher mediates the desired processes of abstraction and connection
making. For example, a social studies teacher might ask students
what factors provoked World War I and where such factors are now
operating in the world. Perkins and Salomon (1988) contend that
these methods can do much to foster transfer in the instructional
setting when used persistently and systematically.
Interdisciplinary Integration Desirable ?
are those who question whether it is, in fact, advisable to engage
in interdisciplinary integration in our schools. From a Jewish
perspective, we find a hesitancy, even among those who advocate
the concept of Torah Umada, the integration of Torah and general
studies. In his address to alumni of Yeshiva University on the
school's fiftieth anniversary, Dr. Norman Lamm, president of the
university, quoted his predecessor, Dr. Samuel Belkin: “Our job
is to give the students the material; their job is to let the materials
interact within their minds.” Apparently, the bastion of the Torah
Umada philosophy advocates a student-based integration facilitated
by the presentation of parallel tracks without mediation. Interestingly,
Howard Gardner has also expressed reservations about interdisciplinary
instruction (Gardner, 1999):
the word interdisciplinary, one must show that particular disciplines
have been mastered and appropriately joined. Such interdisciplinary
synthesis is simply not feasible for most youngsters during the
middle years of childhood, or for most of their teachers. Rather,
I see most so-called interdisciplinary curricula as commonsense
or proto-disciplinary activities. Instead of drawing on or preparing
disciplined thinking, these approaches tend to
ignore the pre- or proto-disciplinary distinctions that young children
are becoming able to master.
Gardner does not negate that “interdisciplinary” curricula may
have some other value, he does assert that, at least prior to high
school, they do not promote interdisciplinary thinking, and may
in fact ultimately hamper such thinking by weakening mastery of
specific disciplines. Gardner states a further reservation regarding
the inability of many teachers to actually facilitate interdisciplinary
study. These comments might be construed to support the compartmentalized
approach reflected at Yeshiva University and many day schools.
They could also be used to support the use of student based integration
models that fall into Fogarty's third category, “integration within
and across learners”.
Bieler suggests that integrating Jewish and general studies may
have another important goal. He quotes Heilman's assertion that
compartmentalization often entails not only separation, but also
devaluation of at least one of the elements being kept apart from
the other (Heilman, 1978). If so, then departmentalization in the
day school will often lead to the devaluation of either the Jewish
studies component or the general studies component, undermining
the goal of creating students with integrated world views who can
live holistically as Jews in the modern world. On the contrary,
Bieler claims that such departmentalization creates a dissonance
for learners that may lead to an active or passive disregard of
one of the two worlds in which the school wants them to live. Thus,
schools that wish to foster integrated world views must seek ways
of overcoming compartmentalization within the given limitations.
to reason that schools wishing to effect integration must be sensitive
to the educational issues discussed above, as well as the obstacles
to successful implementation. The following are potential impediments
to interdisciplinary integration that must be considered.
- As indicated by Gardner, not all teachers are capable of true
interdisciplinary integration. If that is so in general studies,
then it poses an even greater challenge in the integration of Jewish
and general studies. Many instructors in the Jewish studies department
do not possess expertise, or even a high level of familiarity,
in areas of general studies. Conversely, general studies teachers,
some of whom are not Jewish, are often not versed in the Jewish
studies content and methodology.
- The lack of teachers within the day schools who have interdisciplinary
scope would require a team reaching approach for interdisciplinary
instruction. The success of such an effort would depend upon the
motivation and commitment of participating teachers, as well as
the availability of adequate planning time to allow for the development
of meaningful integrated instruction.
- As Bieler (1986) has pointed out, the complex integration constructs
that have been developed by philosophers such as Harav Yosef Dov
Soloveitchik and Harav Aharon Lichtenstein are difficult to translate
into the curricula of Diaspora day schools because of both the
complexity of the material and the inability of most students to
function within such a system.
Hayes Jacobs (1991) indicates that the largest obstacle to curriculum
integration is that people try to do too much. Successful implementation
must take into account the various levels and phases of integration
that might be possible in a school. It is important to keep in
mind that curriculum integration is not a goal unto itself, but
a means toward the creation of integrated thinkers. The following
are some recommendations that flow from the above analysis:
does not have to be interdisciplinary. The first step toward integration
is to foster integrated thinking with each discipline. Teachers
of both Jewish and general studies must foster low road and high
road transfer rather than simple learning within their instruction.
Such fostering represents a pedagogical skill that can be developed
through proper in-service training.
who are capable of drawing on information from other disciplines
should be encouraged to do so when appropriate, but not at the
expense of the mastery of their own discipline. For example, a
teacher of Torah who is covering Shemot 1:10-22 might wish to have
students analyze events in Nazi Germany in light of the different
approaches of the commentators on this section and the different
analyses of the Nazi program by historians. The goal of teaching
Torah, however, must not necessarily be to seek their relevance
to modern events, but rather to master textual analyses and study
of the commentators. Connections should be made only when they
represent a high road transfer.
integration can be fostered, as well, without interdisciplinary
instruction. Such integration involves the process defined by Fogarty
as integration within and across learners. An example of this process
would be a project that calls on the student to draw on a variety
of disciplines in order to complete the work. This approach is
appropriate to Gardner's model in which mastery of disciplines
is conducted in parallel and the student makes the connection between
them. The difference between this model and the Yeshiva University
model is that the process of integration is mediated by the teachers,
although not through instruction per se.
interdisciplinary instruction can take place when motivated teachers
are given enough planning time to successfully create integrated
units. A school can present its students with models of integrated
thinking through periodic presentation of integrated units. Such
a model does not have to encompass all subjects or be used by all
of the staff.
(1991) proposes a phased action plan for implementing curriculum
integration in a school. An important element of her plan involves
the creation of a dynamic within the staff through cooperative "action
research" activities. By defining goals well and providing appropriate
in-service and cooperative planning activities for faculty members,
our schools can indeed succeed in the elusive goal of curriculum
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