Integrated Curriculum

The K-12 curriculum has a long tradition of being organized by separate disciplines of study (e.g. mathematics, science, language arts, social studies, etc.). However, in this age of ubiquitous information, digital connectedness, and technological advancement, there are increased opportunities for students to consider connections across disciplines and engage with real world issues from multiple lenses.  These opportunities call for more integrated approaches to curriculum implementation that allow students to:

Integrated learning has shown to produce many positive learning outcomes, including students’ increased ability to (Repko, 2008):

There are three broad approaches to integrated learning (Drake & Burns, 2004).  Students may learn about a common theme as approached by:

A brief overview of these approaches is presented in the table below (adapted from Drake & Burns, 2004).


Multidisciplinary Integration

Interdisciplinary Integration

Transdisciplinary Integration

Organizing Center

Standards of the disciplines organized around a theme.

Interdisciplinary skills and concepts embedded in disciplinary standards.

Real-life context and student questions as the initial driver; Connections to standards unfold throughout the experience.

Role of Disciplines

Distinct skills and concepts of discipline taught.

Interdisciplinary skills and concepts stressed.

Disciplines identified but real-life context emphasized.

Role of Teacher

Facilitator; Specialist.

Facilitator; Specialist/generalist.

Co-planner; Co-learner; Generalist/specialist.



Interdisciplinary skills/concepts stressed.

Interdisciplinary skills/concepts stressed.


The theme of sustainability can be explored from a historical lens (social studies), a scientific lens (science), and a persuasive writing lens (ELA).

Patterns of inheritance (science) can be better understood when students concurrently learn probability (math) in a structured unit, and vice versa.

Exploring the broad question, “Why are health risks for a certain population increasing over time?” will naturally lead to concurrent explorations and connections across disciplines.

It is recommended that educators draw on these perspectives flexibly to suit their specific learning goals. These approaches call for an increased focus on teacher collaboration. Examples might include grade-level team coordination in elementary contexts and cross-disciplinary partnerships in middle and secondary contexts. 

It is important to consider the following principles when planning an integrated curriculum: 

Integrated curriculum approaches can provide many benefits to both teachers and students. They encourage teachers to collaborate and take on innovative mindsets. They include opportunities for students to exercise their voice in choosing specific topics to pursue or the type of assessment to showcase their learning, and to experience the connection of multiple disciplinary concepts to the world around them. A balanced approach between specialization and integration will ensure that students have opportunities for both deep understanding and innovative application of knowledge throughout their education.