Educating students to cross boundaries between disciplines and cultures and between theory and practice

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Abstract: Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to evaluate and analyse the didactic model of a university course, which concerns an applied academic consultancy project and which focuses on skills related to crossing boundaries between disciplines and cultures, and between theory and practice. These boundary crossing skills are needed to develop sustainable solutions for complex environmental problems. Design/methodology/approach – The paper evaluates the course based on recommendations for successful collaborative interdisciplinary research found in literature. Reflections of two cohorts of 30 students are used to analyse the four components that make up the didactic model of the course: organizational “matrix structure” in which students work, two week field-trip, customized SharePoint web site, and teachers as facilitators rather than providers of information. Findings – The course enhanced the students' awareness of disciplinary and cultural boundaries and added to their appreciation of using different disciplinary and cultural perspectives in developing sustainable solutions. Students learnt to deal with uncertainty in scientific research and realized that decisions in environmental management are based on partial knowledge. They also learnt how to overcome barriers in the design and implementation of interdisciplinary research projects. Originality/value – The paper presents an innovative didactic model that proved to be successful in educating boundary crossing skills. It contributes to understanding how educational programmes at universities can better equip students to find sustainable solutions
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-35
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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