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Immersed Model of Integrated Learning for Doctoral Students

Updated: Feb 23, 2021

Getting to know what I don’t know.


My own academic background is in classical languages, where approaches to research are essentially qualitative, emphasizing literary analysis and the evaluation of primary sources (Ochsner et al., 2013). Coming from that background into doctoral studies in education (in my case, a social sciences degree), I'm often reminded that I don’t even know what I don’t know. It's humbling.

Granted, now six months into a doctoral program (as I write this in November of 2020), I have a better sense of the landscape and, with that, I'm able to develop my knowledge and skills in a self-directed way. Of course there are gaps, particularly in areas of statistical/quantitative analysis, but I have a solid foundation of knowledge on which to build.

This has me thinking about how I learn and my approach to education as a nearly middle-aged person. Some recent reading offered me a solution or, at least, gave me the language to talk about how I learn.

In what has become a classic work on curriculum, Robin Fogarty (1991) outlined ten ways in which curricula can be integrated. Among the approaches she described, the Immersed Model clearly expresses the doctoral student journey. Says Fogarty, in this model the integration of learning takes place within us as students. We immerse ourselves in a field of study and enhance what we know and our interests based on what we need to know to become experts and find success in that field (for me, it's language acquisition and statistics). We continually funnel the knowledge and methods from diverse fields of study into our own field in a way Fogarty describes as ‘intensely personal.’

The complexity and details of educational research methods are vast; more often than not at this stage, I run across techniques in research papers that are novel to my experience (for instance, the repertory grid interview using nonparametric factor analysis, which I came across in my reading today (Ochsner et al., 2013) for this post). I am reminded, once again, how much I need to learn, and that there will be moments when, as it were, I still don’t even know what I don’t know. But increasingly, with time and experience, my thinking should shift and it will more often be the case that, while I don’t know something, at least I'll have some familiarity with it. As Donald Rumsfeld (2002) has famously said, "We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know."

Fogarty, R. (1991). The mindful school: how to integrate the curricula. Skylight

Publishing, Inc.

Ochsner, M., Hug, S.E., & Danile, H. (2013). Four types of research in the humanities:

Setting the stage for research quality criteria in the humanities. Research

Evaluation, 22, 79-92.

Rumsfeld, D. (2002, Feb. 12). News Transcript: DoD News Briefing.

Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers. United States Department of Defense



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