Advances in Health Sciences Education

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 65–84 | Cite as

How students experience integration and perceive development of the ability to integrate learning

  • Shalote ChipamaungaEmail author
  • Detlef Prozesky


The merits of integrative learning in promoting better educational outcomes are not questionable. However, there are contentious views on how to implement it. In addition, there is scanty evidence on how students experience it and how they develop the ability to integrate learning. In this paper, students’ experiences of integration are explored. Using a phenomenographic approach, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with students and teachers in an undergraduate medical programme. Analysis of data revealed the “outcome space”—a collective of students’ experiences. Using the “anatomy of awareness” framework, the experiences were structured according to how students experience the meaning of integration of learning; the abilities that they perceive are needed to carry it out; the acts of learning that for them are associated with these abilities; and internal and external factors which they perceive to facilitate or hinder it. The research revealed five conceptions of integration and abilities to achieve it, developing with increasing sophistication over time. Teachers’ experiences with the curriculum generally supported the students’ experiences. To facilitate integrative learning, starting earlier in the programme, intentional contextually directed interventions are suggested.


Integration of learning Integrative learning Curriculum integration Phenomenographic research into integrative learning Anatomy of awareness 


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Health Professions Education, College of Health SciencesUniversity of ZimbabweHarareZimbabwe
  2. 2.Department of Medical Education, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of BotswanaGaboroneBotswana

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