Educating students to cross boundaries between disciplines and cultures and between theory and practice

Ir. Karen P. J. Fortuin (Environmental Systems Analysis Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands)
Simon R. Bush (Environmental Policy Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Publication date: 12 January 2010

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to evaluate and analyse the didactic model of a university course, which concerns an applied academic consultancy project and which focuses on skills related to crossing boundaries between disciplines and cultures, and between theory and practice. These boundary crossing skills are needed to develop sustainable solutions for complex environmental problems.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper evaluates the course based on recommendations for successful collaborative interdisciplinary research found in literature. Reflections of two cohorts of 30 students are used to analyse the four components that make up the didactic model of the course: organizational “matrix structure” in which students work, two week field‐trip, customized SharePoint web site, and teachers as facilitators rather than providers of information.

Findings

The course enhanced the students' awareness of disciplinary and cultural boundaries and added to their appreciation of using different disciplinary and cultural perspectives in developing sustainable solutions. Students learnt to deal with uncertainty in scientific research and realized that decisions in environmental management are based on partial knowledge. They also learnt how to overcome barriers in the design and implementation of interdisciplinary research projects.

Originality/value

The paper presents an innovative didactic model that proved to be successful in educating boundary crossing skills. It contributes to understanding how educational programmes at universities can better equip students to find sustainable solutions.

Keywords

Citation

Karen P., I. and Bush, S. (2010), "Educating students to cross boundaries between disciplines and cultures and between theory and practice", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 11 No. 1, pp. 19-35. https://doi.org/10.1108/14676371011010020

Download as .RIS

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.