The Role of Integrated Curriculum in the 21st Century School

Robert Welker Sr., University of Missouri Saint Louis


In schools across the country, there appears to be an increasing focus on 21st Century

Skills development. While there may be some variance among specific definitions of

these skills by national groups and individual schools, review of the literature has

identified eight common features among widely accepted frameworks: creativity, critical

thinking, problem-solving, communication, collaboration, digital literacy, social and

cultural skills, and self-regulation. It is proposed that integrated curriculum should be

considered an ideal method for the teaching and learning of 21st Century Skills. While

neither the collection of skills designated as “21st century” in and of themselves, nor the

integrated curriculum are novel ideas in education, there appears to be a gap in related

literature studying the complementary relationship of the two. Surveys were conducted to

measure frequency of practices associated with the integrated curriculum and teacher

attitudes related to 21st Century Skills. Teachers were interviewed to identify practices

and attitudes, providing data for mixed-methods analysis. An interrelationship between

the integrated curriculum and the teaching of 21st Century Skills as well as barriers to

best practice were identified.