This fall, Muhlenberg will be offering 11 courses that fulfill the new Integrative Learning (IL) General Academic Requirement (GAR) that was announced last November.
Integrated Learning is a designation given to select courses that study a single topic through multiple lenses. The IL designation was given to seven courses this spring, and IL courses replace Cluster requirements for the Class of 2021 onward. Cluster courses were the College’s recent attempt at teaching interdisciplinary thinking, where sophomores selected a set of two pre-scheduled courses that covered the same topic from two different angles.
Despite the shift away from clusters, they are committed to the idea of the Integrative learning. The College has received recognition for its efforts, according to Provost Kathy Harring.
“We participated in a higher education institute on integrative learning in July 2017 in Chicago, and received a lot of very positive feedback about the work that we are doing at the College to support students’ skills.” said Harring. “In addition, another team of faculty presented our integrative learning at a conference in July with standing room only.”
Additionally, said Harring, other colleges have been reaching out to ‘Berg on the subject.
“When your peers are asking you for advice, it’s really gratifying,” Harring said. “It really is a testament to Muhlenberg faculty and their innovation in curriculum development.”
An article in the Association of American Colleges and Universities Peer Review argues “that in most arenas outside the academy–from the workplace to scientific discovery to medicine to world and national affairs–multilayered, unscripted problems routinely require an integrative approach.”
Dr. Kimberly Heiman, a co-coordinator of integrative learning at the College, noted in a previous interview with The Weekly that employers look for interdisciplinary problem-solving in potential employees. This kind of interdisciplinary thinking can even help solve larger problems.
“If you look at the problems that are facing society and the environment and the world today, not a single one of them is solvable from a single disciplinary perspective,” said Heiman, “Take global climate change, for example. There’s a scientific/ecological component to that, but there’s also a socio-economic component to that, there’s a political component to that, etc. There’s no way to solve that problem from just one disciplinary perspective.”
Of the six members of Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC), Muhlenberg is one of the only to house integrative learning as an academic designation of that name. Lehigh University does offer a program integrating academic and experiential learning, but the application is not cross-curricular. Students, instead, apply their learning outside the classroom.
The College is working on helping faculty develop IL designated courses with a workshop scheduled later this month and the hope of bringing more ILs to the coursebook.