Integrative Learning

CTL Faculty Stories: Justus Ortega

Dr. Justus Ortega, Kinesiology Department
Taking an integrative approach to teaching and learning prepares and transforms students into  professionals in their field. It’s not enough to listen to a lecture, or practice in a lab, or engage in community service. All these parts are important and often necessary for deep learning to happen, but it takes much more to transform students into dedicated practitioners.

Dr. Justus Ortega tackles this challenge head-on, and regularly sees success by taking an integrated approach to curriculum and associated learning experiences. 

Integrative learning “is the process of making connections among concepts and experiences so that information and skills can be applied to novel and complex issues or challenges” (Ithaca College). In Dr. Ortega’s Kinesiology classes, he has students connect the classroom with the lab and the community through applied research. At its essence, Ortega wants students to “get their hands into it;” he argues that the most impactful learning is learning by doing, reflecting on that doing, and doing things that matter. Course content is understood through direct practice working with community members in need in the Biomechanics Lab. Moreover, students themselves are subjects in laboratory studies and work in integrated teams where responsibilities between undergraduate and graduate students are fluid. This gives students the opportunities to teach and learn from each other as they tackle real problems that are framed as disciplinary research questions. It’s an iterative process that requires high levels of critical thinking and reflection.  

Regardless of the subject area, an integrative learning environment places students in a network of interconnected activities and systems. Students teach and mentor other students. They also practice and research with other students. Students leave transformed and ready to be the empowered professionals we wish them to be. 

Another example of the excellence that characterizes educators at Cal Poly Humboldt.

Video transcript