Initial Publication Date: June 13, 2014

Breaking Silos: Bring Sustainability and Earth-centered Societal Issues into your Classroom

Storm Button Geoscientists focus on Earth topics, but don't always incorporate societal issues. Other disciplines can better approach societal issues when equipped with Earth-related expertise. Barriers to interdisciplinary teaching exist, find out below what InTeGrate has learned about making it easier.
Why teach this way? »

Pedagogic Guidance

The InTeGrate project stresses teaching of geoscience in the context of societal issues. How does that translate into day-to-day classroom teaching? The following five themes were established by the InTeGrate assessment team, and will be essential attributes of materials developed by this project.

The Importance of Differing Points of View

Understanding and struggling with differing viewpoints will help you build relationships across disciplines and it will help your students grasp the complexity of these topics. When working together, differing points of view bring more robust solutions to complex issues. Throughout the InTeGrate project, we've learned that (at least initial) face-to-face interactions with people are the fastest and most robust way to start understanding different ways of thinking and approaching these issues.

A Spectrum of Ways to Build Connections Between Faculty

Capitalizing on the strengths of others has obvious benefits, since you can both draw on and provide expertise, but there are many ways to go about this. Start off small with informal discussions or invite a guest speaker to your class before diving in to larger scale integration. Whatever the method, remember to foster a culture of collaboration to help your students work across disciplines.

Within a course

View InTeGrate team-authored materials»

Across classes

  • Team teaching
  • Core interdisciplinary courses that brings curriculum together (a.k.a. federated curriculum)
  • Core topics or themes that are linked across many disciplinary courses

More on interdisciplinary teaching strategies »

Provide a Meaningful Context and Examples

Grand societal issues affect us all, and are inherently interdisciplinary. Students are energized and mobilized by real-world issues, and expand their interests by becoming involved in the local community [e.g. Brozo, 2005] . There are many strategies to help your students move beyond talking, including community partnerships, place-based approaches, and taking part in research projects. These strategies are pedagogically strong, student-centered approaches, which support deep learning and application.

Find example activities, courses and ideas

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Community Collections
Activities, course descriptions, essays, real-world examples, and program profiles contributed by InTeGrate participants .

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InTeGrate-Developed Teaching Materials
A major effort of the InTeGrate project is to develop a new breed of teaching materials that can be utilized in general education courses, core courses within geoscience majors, courses for pre-service teachers, courses designed for other majors including environmental studies, social science, engineering, and other sciences, and courses for interdisciplinary programs. Read more about how InTeGrate is creating new teaching materials. Descriptions are available and the first full modules will be published in the Summer of 2014.

site guide button Sustainability Site Guide
Collections of materials are drawn from across many projects, including submissions by participants at InTeGrate workshops. A comprehensive index to sustainability materials can be found on the