Teaching Sustainability and the Environment Within and Across Disciplines

Thursday, Friday 8:30am-11:30am Weeks Geo: A259

Session Chairs

Rick Oches, Bentley University
David Szymanski, Bentley University
Sustainability challenges are often "wicked problems" that require a transdisciplinary approach to adequately define and understand. As such, teaching sustainability requires faculty to teach outside of their disciplinary comfort zones, which presents pedagogic challenges, while also affording opportunities for cross-disciplinary engagement with colleagues across campus. In this workshop we will explore ways to develop true transdisciplinary courses and course activities while building a faculty culture of collaborative teaching and learning.


How can we really teach "sustainability?" Yes, STEM literacy and a strong STEM workforce are important. But they're not sufficient to address problems like water scarcity, energy demand, and global climate change. "Wicked" problems like climate change are rooted inherently complex natural and human systems: they have no unique solution and even more importantly, cannot even be uniquely formulated by any single discipline. In a world driven by commerce, these challenges require reshaping the way we teach all undergraduates – STEM and non-STEM majors alike – to think critically about their role in commerce, technology, and civic engagement. Teaching this complexity requires faculty to engage in transdisciplinary approaches in curriculum development.

This workshop will focus on transdisciplinary curriculum development as a means for bridging the diverse interfaces among human and natural systems when teaching sustainability problems.

Target Audience

The target audience for the workshop is instructors seeking to teach the challenge of sustainability as a complex system that requires transdisciplinary approaches to problem solving. While recognizing the importance of STEM fields, participants should be ready to leave their disciplinary comforts zones in curriculum development and seek to collaborate with colleagues among other science fields, the arts and sciences more broadly, and "professional" disciplines in the academe.


By the end of the workshops, participants will be prepared to:

1. Explain the transdisciplinary nature of wicked problems of sustainability;

2. Effectively collaborate in transdisciplinary teams; and

3. Teach familiar concepts in the context of a complex transdisciplinary problem.

Participants will leave the workshop with plans for engaging colleagues in curriculum development to design novel course activities on sustainability topics across the curriculum.


We will describe a model for moving toward curricular fusion of STEM and other disciplines through collaborative development and assessment of transdisciplinary undergraduate sustainability modules. Participants will work in teams to outline sample modules and create plans for implementation and assessment.

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