In the Trenches - July 2016

Volume 6, Number 3

In This Issue

Online Supplements This site provides web links that supplement the print articles as well as news and web resources. Members can follow the "Read more" links below to access full versions of the articles online. To receive the full edition of In the Trenches, join NAGT

Transdisciplinary Collaboration: An Introduction

Adam Kuban, Ball State University

In this issue, we explore the concept of transdisciplinary teaching as a means of promoting inquiry, generating interest among students and as a means of reaching across traditional disciplinary boundaries to explore problems from new perspectives. Adam Kuban, who is serving as associate editor for this issue, has written the introductory piece on transdisciplinary collaboration to provide a foundation for the articles that follow. In these, you will find an assortment of practical classroom examples, ideas, and resources to promote a transdisciplinary perspective in the classroom and transdisciplinary collaboration among faculty and students. — Cindy Shellito, Editor in Chief Read more...

InTeGrate: Interdisciplinary Teaching of Geoscience for a Sustainable Future

Cailin Huyck Orr, Alice Newman, and Cathryn Manduca, Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College

When today's undergraduates send their children to college, there will be more than eight billion people on Earth. Our climate will be punctuated by extreme weather events. Multiple major cities will have experienced a devastating earthquake, volcanic eruption, or flood. Energy and water resources will be strained. This world needs an Earth-literate public and a diverse workforce that can bring geoscience to bear on challenging societal issues. Developing widespread opportunity to learn about our Earth and developing capacity in this workforce are the overarching objectives of the InTeGrate project. Read more...

Using the Missouri River to Integrate Science and Sustainability Across the Curriculum

Mark Sweeney and Meghann Jarchow, University of South Dakota

Sustainable Rivers is a program working to develop and implement InTeGrate materials at the University of South Dakota (USD). The program uses the Missouri River as a case study for transdisciplinary teaching in courses from across the university, including the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. This program utilizes place-based learning, which has been found to be effective pedagogically (Israel, 2012; Semken, 2012). Our primary hope is that an increased awareness of science and sustainability issues related to the Missouri River will increase science literacy among USD's undergraduate students. Read more...

InTeGrating Climate Change Across the Curriculum

Laura Triplett, Gustavus Adolphus College

If global warming is "the defining challenge of our era," in the words of former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, why do so few college and university students learn about it? Perhaps some learn about the science of climate change in a geoscience, physics or biology course, but, frequently, the conversation stops there. What about the politics or economics of climate change? What about the psychology of environmental decision-making, or the ethical and theological constructions? How do writers and artists "speak" about the looming climate crisis, or how will the medical profession need to adapt? Teachers in many disciplines want to teach about some aspect of climate change in their courses, but they often fail to do so, leaving our students poorly prepared for real-world conversations and decisions.Read full article.

The Use of InTeGrate Modules as Pedagogical Bridges into Higher Education

Joshua Villalobos, El Paso Community College

The state of education and how we educate is ever evolving. These changes are often subtle and are misperceived or go unnoticed. Understanding how education evolves, and how it is dictated by several factors, is an important aspect for educators. How students learn is often influenced according to their generation. Each generation has different attributes that are derived from a collection of social and cultural experiences that affect the way they perceive their world and how they learn from it. Students in Generation-X (these are the students who might ask "Why is this on the test?") learn very differently from Millennials (who instead might ask "What is going to be on the test?"). Students from Generation Z, who were born in the mid-1990s after the Millennials, will be in our classes within the next decade and will again require us to reexamine how we teach. Read more...

Mapping the Environment with Sensory Data

Michael A. Phillips, Illinois Valley Community College; Lisa L. Phillips, Illinois State University; and Kate J. Darby, Western Washington University

Fully understanding and characterizing environmental problems requires a transdisciplinary approach that draws not only from the physical and biological sciences (including the geosciences), but also from the social science and humanities fields in which human experience, narratives, and images are interpretable data. Mapping with human sensation (our senses) allows students to experience the movement of "contaminants" through the environment and helps students develop an understanding of how individuals living in proximity to environmental hazards are directly affected by those hazards.Read more...

Developing Transdisciplinary Sustainability Curricula Requires an Academic Culture Change

David W. Szymanski, Eric A. Oches, and Donna Fletcher, Bentley University; Timothy W. Sipe and Jeffrey Nesteruk, Franklin & Marshall College; Sheldon P. Turner, Triton College; Christine H. Mooney, Northern Illinois University; and Ellen R. Iverson, Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College

Sustainability is a "wicked" problem, inextricably linked to earth system science. There is no question that meeting the scientific challenges of sustainability while ensuring economic stability and social equality in an increasingly resource-constrained world requires a scientifically literate public. But problems like climate change and resource scarcity are rooted in inherently complex natural and human systems. Building on the original use of the term by Churchman (1967), Rittel and Webber (1973) noted that "wicked" problems have no unique solution and even more importantly, they cannot be uniquely formulated, nor can solutions be defined by any single discipline. As Earth science educators, we demonstrate this fact each time we teach the enhanced greenhouse effect in the historical context of fossil fuel use, or each time we steady ourselves for the inevitable political discussion that follows. Read more...

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Web Features

NAGT, its members, and its sponsored projects have produced a number of resources related to the topics addressed in this issue.

InTeGrate: Interdisciplinary Teaching of Geoscience for a Sustainable Future »

InTeGrate is a five-year, NSF-funded STEM Talent Expansion Program (STEP) Center project that started in 2012. The first goal of InTeGrate is to develop modular curricula that are used to increase the Earth literacy of undergraduate students.The second goal is to increase the number of majors in the geosciences and related fields who are able to work with other scientists, social scientists, business people, and policy-makers to develop viable solutions to current and future environmental and resource challenges. Our community of 102 material developers have created and are testing 33 modules and courses, including those that are targeted for introductory geology, for teacher preparation,and those that bridge learning about the Earth with disciplines outside of geoscience.

Interdisciplinary Approaches to Teaching »

Interdisciplinary instruction entails the use and integration of methods and analytical frameworks from more than one academic discipline to examine a theme, issue, question or topic. The hallmark of interdisciplinary education is integration of notions and guiding principles from multiple disciplines to systematically form a more complete, and hopefully coherent, framework of analysis that offers a richer understanding of the issue under examination. This Pedagogy in Action module examines the What, Why, and How of interdisciplinary teaching.

Science in the Courtroom »

The landmark case of Anne Anderson et al. versus W.R. Grace & Co. and Beatrice Foods, Inc. is ingrained in high school and college curricula through the award-winning book "A Civil Action" and the movie of the same name starring John Travolta. This website is designed to help students and instructors use the teaching modules and resource collections from the famous trial in science and interdisciplinary courses in high school and college.

Supporting STEM Success in a Liberal Arts Context: Fostering Integrative Learning »

Training in science, engineering and mathematics content and skills is necessary, but not sufficient to prepare future leaders in STEM fields. Students must also gain experience in applying the knowledge and skills to complex, real world challenges. The role of integrative learning is to increase students' ability to transfer, apply and synthesize their classroom learning into a coherent and usable body of knowledge. This module developed by the HHMI Capstone Institutions provides guidance derived from their decades of experience running programs to promote integrative learning.

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