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Integrative Education: Barbara Clark

Perspectives on Educational Change
Compiled and Edited by Dee Dickinson

Barbara Clark


The last two decades have brought a tremendous increase in knowledge in nearly every field of study. This knowledge has had important implications for the theory and practice of education. Recent years have brought questions of reform in our schools; of what must be taught, what is effective teaching, and suggestions for techniques and strategies that will promote success for all learners.

Unfortunately, these two events, new knowledge in many disciplines and the movement for reform, have been largely explored as unrelated, ignoring the new information that could help educators better realize their goals for effective teaching and learning. It is the fostering of this relationship that seems critical in the coming decade.

Education must take advantage of new information from other fields on how human learning may be enhanced. As new insights are gained in brain research, cognitive psychology, systems theory, linguistics, and other diverse fields, they must be reflected in the classroom. It was for this purpose of synthesizing current knowledge that the Integrative Education Model was first developed.

Following are some of the promising ideas from other fields that could have important implications for education.

Connectedness, Interrelatedness, and Integration

Connectedness, Interrelatedness, and Integration are common themes found in the research of many fields of study. Neuroscientists show integration and association as the overriding functions of the brain; physicists find connectedness and interrelatedness a critical part of the structure of the universe; linguists promote the "whole language approach"; and systems theorists consider connectedness and interrelatedness as essential to the survival of any system. Implications for education include thematic teaching, multidisciplinarity in presentation of content, reorganization of school and classroom management to include participation and shared responsibility, and integration of all the brain functions in the learning process.

Interdependence of Emotional, Cognitive, Physical
and Intuitive Functions

Interdependence of emotional, cognitive, physical, and intuitive functions allows learners to be effective and efficient when the opportunities are provided for the use of all of these support systems for learning. The neurosciences have brought forth a wide base of support to validate the need for teaching to the whole child. While this concept has been discussed in the past, it must be implemented in the classroom if learners are to be allowed to develop all their talents and skills. Where previously only the cognitive skills that were analytic and linear were considered important, current data show that the integration of all brain functions (analytic and gestalt processes of cognition, emotion, physical sensation, and intuition) can better support learning and ensure success to every learner.

Higher Thought Processes, Synthesis, Creativity
and Physical Well-Being

Higher thought processes, synthesis, creativity, and physical well-being are seen to be enhanced by reducing tension and encouraging the use of visualization and imagery. A great many fields now use these methods with positive results. Education needs the support of such findings to bring to students a full actualization of their abilities and to allow them the use of the power of their own minds.

Environmental Concern and Global Awareness

Environmental concern and global awareness are increasing; efforts are being made to incorporate the findings from these areas of study into every discipline. The classroom is not the only place where learning occurs. The environment of the classroom rarely incorporates the richness and diversity of the many cultures and communities of our world; yet learners of today must function in this very diversity and complexity. Learning experiences must be provided beyond the classroom, using the community and the natural environment as sites for learning and teaching.

These are but a few of the issues and ideas current in the knowledge of other disciplines that must impact the reform of our schools. As the implementation and development of the Integrative Education model continues, it becomes more evident that it provides a structure able to bring all these support data into the learning experience. Because the model is based on these data, it holds real promise as an open theory including flexible practices that can easily reflect new information allowing the education of our children to be optimal and dynamic. For these reasons and with this promise in mind, further implementation of the Integrative Education Model will continue to be high priority in the decade to come.

About: Barbara Clark

At New Horizons for Learning's Education Summit Conference on Lifespan Learning, Dr. Barbara Clark, author of Growing Up Gifted (which will be newly published in an updated version in 1997), advised, "We must see how what we do affects children so our limits won't be theirs, and we can share their visions. Our mission is to push the limits. We need to look for potential to break through for all children!"

Throughout her career, Dr. Clark has worked to develop ways of teaching children of all ability levels to learn more effectively through holistic educational practices. Her book, Optimizing Learning, offers practical, how-to strategies for teaching and learning based on current cognitive research and on the results of the numerous educational programs in which her work has been implemented. Her Integrative Education Model utilizes brain/mind research as the basis for optimizing teaching and learning through exercising thinking, feeling, intuition, and physical sensing in mutually supportive ways.

Dr. Clark is a professor in the Division of Special Education at California State University, Los Angeles, where she is coordinator for graduate programs in the area of Gifted Education. Her background is in Special Education for both learning handicapped and gifted students.

As a trustee and director of the Center for Educational Excellence for Gifted and Highly Able Learners, she directed their School Project for seven summers. She was president of the National Association for Gifted Children and is a member of the Board of Directors and past president of the California Association for the Gifted. Dr. Clark is a United States delegate to the World Council for Gifted and Talented. She was named Outstanding Professor of 1978-79 at the California State University, Los Angeles. She is currently vice president of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children.

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