Presentation on theme: "Making the transition to interdisciplinarity: Effective strategies for early student support Dr Zoe Robinson Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science/Physical."— Presentation transcript:
Making the transition to interdisciplinarity: Effective strategies for early student support Dr Zoe Robinson Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science/Physical Geography School of Physical and Geographical Sciences Dr Sherilyn MacGregor Senior Lecturer in Environmental Politics School of Politics, International Relations, and Philosophy Sophie Bessant Sustainability Project Assistant Keele University HEA ESD Interdisciplinary Sustainability Education event, York, 14 th December 2011
Project context Increasing number of new interdisciplinary sustainability-focussed degrees Very different to traditional disciplinary approach in schools Anecdotal evidence that students struggle in the first year with seeing the relevance of different subjects Therefore students fail to make the most of the first year of their programme Students often have a strong (and narrow) preconception of what their degree programme should include So, how do we help support students make the transition onto an interdisciplinary sustainability degree programme
Project aims and objectives 1.Profile UK UG Sustainability programmes in HE through UCAS 2.Explore the challenges of running interdisciplinary sustainability programmes with programme directors 3.Explore the experiences of UG students on Sustainability programmes 4.Develop and evaluate interventions to assist students making the transition onto interdisciplinary sustainability programmes – Reflective Learning Journals 5.Develop an open access online resource to support students on these programmes
Results 1: Sustainability programmes Many new courses, but….also courses shutting down ‘Sustainability’ re-badging and re-shuffling of Environmental Management programmes Small numbers on courses
Results 2: Interviews with programme directors Interdisciplinarity: –Really a challenge? –Students aware of interdisciplinary nature of courses –Not taught explicitly Challenges –Range of backgrounds –Economics, Science, Maths most challenging –Not always tailored by other departments –Need effective communication to avoid repetition –Often teaching out of area of expertise
Results 2: Interviews with programme directors Consistent approaches –Importance of broad-based science teaching in first year –Core modules used to bring strands together –Use of practitioners to show ‘real-world’ context –Use of problem-scenarios to demonstrate interdisciplinarity Recruitment issues –Need to be on radar of high school students –Need to link explicitly with careers.
Results 2: Interviews with programme directors Scottish vs English/Welsh systems –Highers – wider range of subjects. Provides a better interdisciplinary preparation –Four year degrees important for recruitment –Scottish education ethos more interdisciplinary Anecdotal: a number of students on different programmes saying they wished they were studying Environment and Sustainability but didn’t know it existed
Results 3: Evaluating interventions – ‘Reflective Learning Journals’ For students: Improved writing skills and responding to feedback Making connections (interdisciplinarity) Pastoral support and coaching Reviewing expectations backwards and forwards (e.g. career plans) For staff Continuous evaluation through written ‘conversation’ with students ‘Check in’ with student expectations, perceptions and intellectual development
“…really engaging with the subject material and having to write cohesive responses really helps you to understand it. I often found that I made connections and had inspirational ideas as I was writing and reflecting” “I don’t feel I can go into a standard job…I feel I have to make a difference somehow and go and do something that’s going to benefit someone, somewhere, somehow. Before, I think I would have been happy bumming around and not doing much with my life, but now…” Deep reflection characterized by perspective transformation or transformative learning Awareness of own intellectual and personal development (including career planning)
Outputs: Interactive Resources for Interdisciplinary Sustainability Informed by interviews and own experiences Open access Not just for Keele students Requires further dissemination through school and HE networks Student-led online resource to support students taking sustainability-programmes – launched August 2011 www.keele.ac.uk/iris
“I have always been aware of the depth of the subject but never actually analysed that depth, this project enabled me to do that. The project has enabled me to see that Environment and Sustainability really is different to anything else, and career wise I now feel more confident than ever before.” Student ‘team leader’
Building bridges Developing Frameworks Need to enhance awareness of Sustainability employability sector to: -schools/colleges, school teachers and career advisors Need to enhance awareness of existence of Sustainability programmes to: -schools, school teachers and career advisors Important role of: - Professional bodies - HEA, EAUC… Awareness beyond usual sustainability circles Development of a network of Sustainability programme developers and deliverers - sector support and sharing best practice - strategies for awareness raising and ‘marketing’ of courses National ‘Sustainability’ student group?
Thank you for listening!! Funding from: Keele University Teaching Innovation Projects HEA Education for Sustainable Development project http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/417664