June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
24.392.1 - 24.392.22
Discoveries from Developing and Teaching a Course involving Engineering, Design, Education and Business DisciplinesThe isolation of students in STEM education from each other’s fields (and thus otherperspectives) tends to be one of the major challenges to improving undergraduate education inthese fields. The isolation and divergence from those in other fields tend to increase as studentsprogress to reach their third and fourth years; they become acculturated to their own discipline’smethods and assumptions, which is as it should be. However, this is also often accompanied byon a narrower focus on everything outside one’s own disciplines which is increasinglyproblematic as real world problems tend to get more complex and finding workable solutionsrequire collaboration and cooperation between the different disciplines.Systems Thinking for Sustainability (SFTS) is an innovative team taught cross-disciplinarycourse for undergraduates from four colleges –Engineering, Design & Architecture, Educationand Business/Economics—developed in an attempt at understanding how to address disciplinaryisolation and improve STEM education. The project, funded by a National Science Foundationgrant, involves a unique effort by a group of faculty from these four colleges to apply a broader,systems-based perspective to practical problem solving. The course uses the lens of systemsthinking for sustainability where students are introduced to relevant systems and sustainabilityconcepts, issues and challenges. Student teams are then challenged to investigate, create andexchange and integrate new tools and techniques to transition to sustainability.The STFS project reveals and reiterates that disciplinary cultures are highly resistant to changewhich make developing and delivering such courses considerably more work for instructors thanteaching traditional courses. While the experience of thinking and working across disciplines isvalued by the students in the end, success in multidisciplinary courses requires more effort fromthose in some disciplines than others. Further, to be successful, the implementation of suchcourses also require institutional and administrative support, particularly because existingmethods of faculty effort assessment are not suited to realistically assessing and recognizing timeand effort devoted to developing and teaching such courses.Integration across engineering contexts alone is difficult; the challenges of collaborating acrossdiverse disciplines are much more complex, both for faculty as well as students. This paper willshare these experiences gained by delivering two iterations of the STFS course particularly fromthe perspective of engineering faculty collaborating with their counterparts in other diversedisciplines to develop and teach a multidisciplinary course. The challenges faced and extensivedeliberations that were required to identify and agree upon course content, different pedagogicalmethods used, team teaching efforts, determining faculty roles and responsibilities methods ofevaluating student learning as well as identifying and managing the umbrella project will bediscussed in detail.
Badurdeen, F., & Sekulic, D., & Gregory, B., & Brown, A., & Fu, H. (2014, June), Developing and Teaching a Multidisciplinary Course in Systems Thinking for Sustainability: Lessons Learned through Two Iterations Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20283
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