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Inquiry in higher education for sustainable development: crossing disciplinary knowledge boundaries

Cecília Galvão (Universidade de Lisboa Instituto da Educação, Lisboa, Portugal and Universidade de Lisboa Instituto de Saúde Ambiental, Lisboa, Portugal)
Cláudia Faria (UIDEF: Research and Development Unit in Education and Training, Universidade de Lisboa Instituto da Educação, Lisboa, Portugal)
Wanda Viegas (LEAF-Linking Landscape, Environment, Agriculture and Food, Universidade de Lisboa Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Lisboa, Portugal)
Amélia Branco (Universidade de Lisboa Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestao, Lisboa, Portugal)
Luís Goulão (LEAF-Linking Landscape, Environment, Agriculture and Food, Universidade de Lisboa Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Lisboa, Portugal)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 25 November 2020

Issue publication date: 22 January 2021

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to understand if a project work methodology proposed to students, based on an inquiry perspective and dealing with different dimensions of sustainable development, contributed to creating an interdisciplinary solution for a problem on sustainability challenged by food production and consumption, and also to understand if this methodological approach is perceived as important to their learning as professionals and citizens. Data were collected by direct observation, a questionnaire applied to the students and students’ individual reflections.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper aims to present the research results of the impact of a pedagogical approach on students, implemented as a part of the Doctoral Programme in Sustainability Science, which was designed following an innovative model at the University of Lisbon, Portugal. The main drivers include building a new body of interdisciplinary knowledge leading to the application of science to address real problems towards transdisciplinary education.

Findings

The results suggest great potential for an inquiry perspective in trying to solve a real problem. Students’ proposals were realistic, viable and complementary enough to collectively contribute in response to the global problem. The use of approaches acquired from different areas of knowledge was clear, and the project methodology was well understood. Students considered the experience very rewarding in terms of learning and contributing positively to their personal and professional development.

Originality/value

This Doctoral programme is anchored in a progressive continuum encompassing holistic debates with a multidisciplinary team of professors in environments that promote interdisciplinary attitudes and new knowledge, and also project work aimed at guiding students to transdisciplinary learning, which constitutes an innovative form of dealing with the complex challenges created by the science of sustainability.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia through funding to research units UID/AGR/04129/2020 (LEAF), UIDB/04107/2020 (UIDEF), UIDB/04295/2020 (ISAMB) and UIDB/04521/2020 (CSG/GHES). Authors would like to thank Editage (www.editage.com) for English language editing.

Citation

Galvão, C., Faria, C., Viegas, W., Branco, A. and Goulão, L. (2021), "Inquiry in higher education for sustainable development: crossing disciplinary knowledge boundaries", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 291-307. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-02-2020-0068

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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