Integrative Learning: Opportunities to Connect

The Integrated Core Capstone Course at MCLA

MCLA's Integrated Learning Project

Our Institution

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts is a small public liberal arts college located in the beautiful Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. We offer an array of undergraduate programs and additionally graduate programs in education, reflecting our 112-year history beginning as a normal teachers college. We have 1500 undergraduate students and 350 graduate students taught by 80 full-time and 30 adjunct faculty members.

The institution implemented an integrated core curriculum in 2001. This has been a challenge for an institution that has a substantial non-traditional student population and that also serves a transfer population. With minor adjustments to the original format, the program is continuing to evolve, with many successes in the integrative components.

In Fall 2006 the final component of the core curriculum, the capstone integrated course, and the focus of our institution's ILP project, will become a requirement for all incoming students.

MCLA's website

MCLA Integrative Collaborations

Integrative Programs & Courses at MCLA

The Project: Integrated Capstone Course for MCLA's Core Curriculum

MCLA's project was to develop objectives, assessment methods, and courses for the upper level integrated capstone course for our developmental core curriculum. During the three years of the project, MCLA has created the pedagogical and assessment frameworks for the courses and developed a number of capstone core curriculum courses that engender the goals and spirit of integrated learning. Beginning in Fall 2006 all incoming students will be required to take a capstone core course to complete their core curriculum requirements. The courses integrate knowledge from a range of disciplines, have students from various majors, and incorporate elements of teamwork and service learning that are so necessary for civic engagement in the 21st century.

Learn more about the project!

MCLA History of Core PowerPoint
This explains the history of development of the Core Curriculum at MCLA - and was the basis for a presentation at the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning Conference in London in May 2006

MCLA Core Curriculum Chart

Products: Developed Core Capstone Courses

During first two years of the project, MCLA's campus activities focused on campus-wide discussions of the intent and format of the capstone core course followed by governance actions to approve the particular goals and objectives of the course. In Summer 2005 and 2006, faculty were granted stipends from the VPAA's office for development of pilot capstone courses. Most of these courses have been offered and have been well-received by the students enrolled in them.

Concurrently, the two lower tiers of the Core Curriculum have been evaluated and revised accordingly. With the implementation of the Tier 3 capstone course, MCLA has a fully developmental integrated core curriculum that accurately reflects our public liberal arts mission.

Pilot Capstone Courses

Reflections: From here, where?

Our work in the ILP has been very rewarding for the team members and, we believe, the institution as a whole. As we implement the requirement for the Core capstone course, we recognize the continuing work we need to do in order to make integrative learning a vital component of an education at MCLA. Many of our faculty members at MCLA are embracing integrative learning experiences, even those who voiced reluctance to teach outside their comfort zone when we began the project. Read further for our thoughts on needed goals and activities to continue this process: