Integration of learning is widely recognised as an essential outcome for students at university. This research study examines the integration of learning in higher education through the context of dental education. It explores the phenomenon from several perspectives. I use Albino and colleagues’ conceptualisation of putting it all together to question: How might putting it all together provoke us to think differently about the integration of learning; and how can integration be brought more visibly into the dental curriculum? Positioned within the interpretivist paradigm, the study employs various methodologies to produce integrated knowledge of integration writings and practices, to explore complexities, and to inspire reflections on what counts as legitimate ways to promote curriculum integration. The study draws on data generated through qualitative synthesis and two empirical studies that involved participant interviews and focus groups amongst students at an Australian dental school.
A key finding of the study is that integration of learning is an open-ended concept. The qualitative synthesis identifies that integration is a curriculum device, an intention, a goal of education, a disposition, a process and an outcome of education. Integration occurs by coming into contact with variation and by widening the lens to take account of and connect with ideas that are not readily apparent. The empirical studies portray integration as the capacity to connect skills and different knowledges from multiple sources and experiences; and that putting it all together rests on the multi-faceted, uneven, moment-by-moment ways that students experience their curriculum. I argue that for students to be able to put together their learning in the context of the profession and society, dental schools should craft curricula that invite students to put together much more than disciplinary subject matter by connecting students with the complexity and supercomplexity of dental practice.