The term “integrated science” is often used as a synonym for interdisciplinary and unified science, which may be applied generally to any curriculum effort in which two or more previously separated science subjects are combined (Showalter 1975). The effort, according to Brown (1977), may be characterized as a collaboration among, a blending with, or a fusion of a number of “subjects” traditionally taught separately. Thus, the meaning of integration in various types of integrated science is different. An integrated science course may be characterized by a focus on processes of scientific inquiry, or a wish to cater for the interests of pupils, or it may be a course structured around topics, themes, or problems that require a multidisciplinary approach. Brown (1977) identified four groups of meanings of integration in science: (1) as the unity of all knowledge, (2) as the conceptual unity of the sciences, (3) as a unified process of scientific enquiry, and (4) as interdisciplinary study. Examples of each of these meanings can be found in the history of the development of integrated science curricula. The Conceptually Oriented Program in Elementary Science (COPES) in the United States, for example, has four conceptual schemes: the structural unity of the universe, interaction and change, degradation of energy, and the statistical view of nature. Science – A Process Approach, also from the United States, uses scientific processes as the basis of integration. Integrated science curricula with an interdisciplinary approach often emphasize the interaction between science and society (e.g., Science and Technology in Society (SATIS) in the United Kingdom).
According to Blum (1991), there are two clusters of arguments that are used to advocate integrated science at the secondary school level. The first includes epistemological and methodological arguments while the other includes psychological, pedagogical, societal, and practical arguments. For a given integrated science curriculum, there may be a wide range of reasons why it has been chosen in preference to traditional separate science curricula. Brown (1977) also developed a classification system of arguments for integrated science, which comprises six factors: (1) outcomes demanded by society (e.g., provision of scientists, informed lay population, informed political leadership), (2) resource constraints (e.g., accommodation, equipment, time, teachers), (3) political constraints (e.g., common-core course for all pupils, national assessment system), (4) conditions for effective learning (e.g., pupil security, motivation, interest), (5) conditions for effective teaching (e.g., teachers’ interests, competence), and (6) constraints imposed by the subject (e.g., unified nature of scientific enquiry). These various arguments are associated with a range of influences and choices which operate at either macro or micro levels in society or both. This classification system can be used to analyze the arguments used for any given integrated science curriculum.
Two dimensions of integration were also put forward by Blum (1991). One is “scope,” which refers to the range of disciplines and fields of study from which content has been used in an integrated science curriculum; the other is “intensity,” the degree to which the subject matter has actually been integrated. Six categories of “scope” were suggested by Blum (1991): (1) within one of the classical natural sciences (e.g., botany and zoology in biology), (2) between two close natural sciences (e.g., chemistry and physics as physical science), (3) between the natural sciences (and perhaps also mathematics), (4) between basic and applied sciences and technology, (5) between natural and social science, and (6) between science and humanities or arts. Blum suggests that, along with the dimension of “intensity,” integration can proceed from “coordination” (independent subject programs taught simultaneously), through “combination” (with major units organized round headings taken from the different disciplines), to “amalgamation” (a particular “issue” forming the unifying principle).
The integrated science curriculum developed in China from the 1980s to the beginning of the new millennium can be used to illustrate the concepts of “scope” and “intensity” (Wei 2009). Aiming to integrate biology, chemistry, and physics in the junior secondary school, this curriculum belongs to the third category of “scope,” i.e., “between the natural sciences.” The “intensity” of this curriculum was different at its two stages of development. At the first stage, at the provincial level in the 1980s/1990s, the aim was “integration within science subjects.” At the second stage, at the national level at the beginning of the new millennium, “integration beyond science subjects” became the aim, and themes that cut across subjects, such as scientific inquiry and nature of science, were used to integrate the curriculum content (Wei 2009).
- Blum A (1991) Integrated science studies. In: Lewy A (ed) The international encyclopedia of curriculum. Pergamon Press, New York, pp 163–168Google Scholar