Disrupting Traditional Pedagogy: Integrating Curriculum

Grant recipients: Karla Boluk and Corey Johnson, Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies

(Project timeline: May 2016 - April 2017)

Project Summary

Photo of Corey Johnson and Karla Boluk

The purpose of the project was to examine the students’ experiences, learning outcomes, and authentic assignment products. We integrated two courses in the Tourism Development Program: a first year Introduction to Tourism course (350 students) and a final year Advanced Seminar in Tourism, Well-being, and Community (22). We identified three main points of intersection. 

  1. First year students were tasked with carrying out a User Experience exercise before, during, and after visiting one of seven tourism attractions. Trip reviews (Travel Advisor, Yelp, etc.) detailing their experiences were passed onto our final year students who developed a critical intervention in response to issues identified. 
  2. LEARN was used to dialogue about their experiences in more depth. 
  3. Our final year students presented their critical interventions to the first year students and a panel of industry stakeholders.  

We involved our teaching assistants as teaching team members in an effort to mentor them in best pedagogical practices and as a place to problem-solve student issues. 

Questions Investigated

We sought to investigate the issues, opportunities, and reciprocity that can accompany integrated curriculum design (ICD). Specifically, we wanted to discern how to most effectively integrate appropriate courses and determine others that are ripe for integration in the department. We also hoped to establish how integration can assist students make connections across courses and allow them to engage in meaningful activities connected to real life and real issues materializing in our communities, both regionally and provincially.   

The primary outcome of our LITE Seed Grant proposal was to analyze the student’s experiences, products, and community responses to the integration of two tourism courses in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies. In the scope of scholarship related to teaching and learning, our study hoped to help us document our efforts and plan for future course integration.

An additional outcome of our proposal was the collaborative mentorship between a junior faculty member (Karla Boluk) and a senior faculty member (Corey Johnson). 


Based on the success of our integrated efforts and the documented evidence collected, we have piqued great interest among our colleagues in the faculty of our department. Some of the most keen are the faculty associated with a recently revamped Tourism Development curriculum, which envisions using models of experiential education and integrated curriculum to unite core degree courses and continue to support deep learning opportunities among our students. Our experience with our Seed Grant illustrated that ICD is an innovative approach to teaching and learning, and clearly enhanced the learning experiences of different student groups with assessments that were relevant, purposeful (based on industry interests), and meaningfully embedded in our local community.  We are now seeking to add additional courses to the integration and involve the remaining Tourism faculty, role modeling how others might adopt our conscientious pedagogical framework. 

As we consider the integration across more than two courses, with more than one faculty member, we need to remain conscientious about when and how we choose to intersect the courses. One significant outcome of our SEED Grant is that our Department Chair has affirmed our recommendation to offer a smaller face to face offering of the Introduction to Tourism course (150 students) and to offer a larger on-line version of the course (a non-integrated elective for non-Tourism majors). We hope a smaller class size will provide a learning environment conducive to meeting our goals and the needs of our students. 

Dissemination and Impact

  • At the individual level: At the student level we feel as though we provided an alternative pedagogical experience to our students whereby they were asked to consider their previous learnings in other classes, as well as their previous life experience and draw that into our class discussions. We feel we provided insights for our first year students regarding what they can expect in their 4th year which would have hopefully minimized anxiety. The integration provided opportunities for mutual mentorship between both the 1st years and the 4th years. Furthermore, we determined it was also important to mentor our teaching teams. As highlighted earlier our colleagues were interested in our innovative approach to pedagogy and have expressed an interest in learning from us.  
  • At the Department/School and/or Faculty/Unit levels: Our colleagues are aware of our work, have expressed an interest, and as a result we have widened our team in include all of the Professors teaching in the Tourism Development Program and invited others as ‘observers’ so that they can learn about our pedagogical approach. Our Faculty Teaching Fellow Kelly Anthony invited us to give a talk on our ICD in the spring at a Faculty Lunch in Learn. We have submitted two subsequent grant proposals to build on our model.  
  • At the institutional (uWaterloo) level: We have offered to give a Lunch and Learn at CTE to help us disseminate our work.
  • At the provincial, national and/or international levels: We presented at the Tourism Educations Future Initiative in Kamloops, B.C. in June (please see presentation) and we are currently finalizing a manuscript.

Impact of the Project

  • Teaching: We have brought in an additional core tourism course to our integration model so that all core tourism development courses are represented and we have mapped this out purposefully. As previously highlighted we have reduced the size of the first year Introduction to Tourism course which we expect will enhance the experience for our students.   
  • Involvement in other activities or projects: Yes, we have assembled a North American team of 9 scholars and have submitted a grant proposal in which we outline the use of three technology-enabled pedagogical tools which will facilitate an integrated model helping to facilitate critical thinking.         
  • Connections with people from different departments, faculties, and/or disciplines about teaching and learning: Yes, as outlined above we have created a North American research team exploring the opportunities and benefits of ICD (as well as, the use of technology-enabled pedagogical tools which may enhance critical thinking).  


Project reference list (PDF)

Project presentation (PDF)

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