This study examined an important trend in higher education: integration of the humanities and arts with sciences, engineering, and medicine at the undergraduate and graduate level—which proponents argue will better prepare students for work, life, and citizenship. Integrative models intentionally seek to bridge the knowledge, modes of inquiry, and pedagogies from multiple disciplines—the humanities, arts, sciences, engineering, technology, mathematics, and medicine—within the context of a single course or program of study. A diverse array of colleges and universities now offer students integrative courses and programs, and many faculty are enthusiastic advocates for this educational approach. This movement in higher education raises an important question: what impact do these curricular approaches have on students?
To address this question, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine formed a 22-member committee to examine “the evidence behind the assertion that educational programs that mutually integrate learning experiences in the humanities and arts with science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) lead to improved educational and career outcomes for undergraduate and graduate students.” The committee conducted an in-depth review and analysis of the state of knowledge on the impact of integrative approaches on students.
Integration is the demonstrated ability to connect, apply, and/or synthesize information coherently from disparate contexts and perspectives, and make use of these new insights in multiple contexts. This includes the ability to connect the domain of ideas and philosophies to the everyday experience, from one field of study or discipline to another, from the past to the present, between campus and community life, from one part to the whole, from the abstract to the concrete, among multiple identity roles—and vice versa. (Barber, 2012. P.593)
In-course integration occurs when concepts and pedagogies from the arts and humanities are integrated into already established STEMM courses, or vice versa, or when new interdisciplinary courses are developed as part of a larger, unintegrated curriculum.Case Studies (Select Papers from Table 6-1):
|Case Studies (Select Papers from Table 6-2):
Co-curricular and Extra-curricular Integration
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Abundant interest and enthusiasm exist for integration within higher education, as evidenced by the groundswell of programs at colleges and universities in various sectors of American higher education (see Compendium of Programs and Courses That Integrate the Humanities, Arts, and STEMM at https://www.nap.edu/ catalog/24988 for a list of 218 examples that the committee found illustrative). Aggregate evidence indicates that some approaches that integrate the humanities and arts with STEMM are associated with positive learning outcomes. Among the outcomes reported are increased critical thinking abilities, higher-order thinking and deeper learning, content mastery, problem solving, teamwork and communication skills, improved visuospatial reasoning, and general engagement and enjoyment of learning.
An important observation was that the kinds of outcomes associated with certain integrative approaches in higher education are the educational outcomes that many employers presently seek. Employer surveys consistently show that employers want well-rounded individuals with a holistic education who can take on complex problems and understand the needs, desires, and motivations of others. Importantly, these learning goals and competences are similarly valued by institutions of higher education. The committee considered multiple forms of evidence as it developed the following recommendations for institutions, faculty, administrators, scholars of higher education, and federal and private funders. The recommendations fall under four main areas:
Institutions should work to develop and implement new models and programs that integrate the STEMM fields, the arts, and the humanities, and sustain existing efforts that have shown promise. Faculty, administrators, and scholars of higher education should consider new designs for general education that incorporate integrative approaches that help students make meaningful connections between their general education and specialized courses. Federal and private funders should recognize the significant role they can and do play in driving integrative teaching, learning, and research. They should lead in supporting integration by prioritizing and dedicating funding for novel, experimental, and expanded efforts to integrate the arts, humanities, and STEMM disciplines and for the evaluation of such efforts.
Institutions and employers should collaborate to better understand how graduates who participated in courses and programs that integrate the humanities, arts, and STEMM fields fare in the workplace throughout their careers.
Faculty and administrators should work with scholars of higher education and experts in the humanities, arts, and STEMM fields to establish agreement on the expected learning outcomes of an integrative educational experience and work to design approaches to assessment.
Faculty, administrators, and scholars of higher education should employ multiple forms of inquiry and evaluation when assessing courses and programs that integrate the humanities, arts, and STEMM fields, including qualitative, quantitative, narrative, expert opinion, and portfolio-based evidence.
Scholars of higher education should focus future research on how integrative educational models can promote the representation of women and underrepresented minorities in specific areas of STEMM fields, the arts, and the humanities, and all research efforts should account for whether the benefits of an integrative approach are realized equitably.
Faculty, administrators, and accrediting bodies need to identify and mitigate constraints (e.g., tenure and promotion criteria, institutional budget models, workloads, accreditation, and funding sources) that hinder integrative efforts in higher education.
Faculty and scholars of higher education working to facilitate integrative curricular models should initiate conversations with the key accrediting organizations for STEMM, the arts, and higher education to ensure that the disciplinary structures and mandates imposed by the accreditation process do not thwart efforts to move toward more integrative program offerings.
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These examples are from U.S.-based projects and are affiliated with academic institutions demonstrating curricular, co-curricular, and research-based integrative models and pathways (see Compendium of Programs and Courses on the Integration of Humanities, Arts, and STEMM at nap.edu). The committee maintains that the impact of certain forms of knowledge creation cannot be sufficiently described in words or numbers. Read more