INQUIRY Learning Opportunities

The Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, also known as the Berger Inquiry, involved over two years of community testimony and legal hearings that addressed the social, environmental, and economic impacts of a proposed gas pipeline in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. Representatives from Aboriginal communities, lawyers, business people, workers, and other constituency groups voiced their various concerns, objections, and support for the project. The INQUIRY exhibit includes Inquiry transcripts, stories, and photographs.

Students, staff, and faculty can engage with the exhibit in a number of ways:

  • Workshops: Curator and former journalist Drew Ann Wake will offer tailored workshops with courses from across campus to review the collected evidence and engage in role play from various Inquiry perspectives. Ms. Wake, with co-organizer Amy Perrault, has also invited several key individuals from the Inquiry to meet with students. Ms. Wake is consulting with faculty to design sessions that draw on course objectives and bridge in key concepts the project highlights.
  • Plenary session: On the morning of November 13th, Glen Coulthard, Julie Cruikshank, and Alestine Andre INSERT POSITIONS/CONNECTIONS TO BERGER INQUIRY HERE will speak about the political, social, educational, and historical dimensions of the Berger Inquiry and its legacies. INSERT LOCATION/TIME DETAILS HERE
  • CTLT Workshop: The Centre for Teaching, Learning, and Technology is hosting a guided workshop and facilitated conversation around the exhibit’s themes and teaching/learning potential. Faculty and TAs are especially encouraged to attend. (For more details and to register, click here.)
  • Student Research Collective: An interdisciplinary student research collective is developing around themes highlighted in the exhibit and relevant to a number of contemporary processes: Aboriginal community consultation, resource extraction, sustainable development, current pipeline projects, non-renewable energies.

Student Interdisciplinary Research Clusters

UBC Mix is accepting applications to support undergraduates who would like to develop multidisciplinary research clusters.

Participating in a research cluster is a great way to get feedback on your work from other students across the disciplines and is an exciting opportunity to join a community of young scholars who are interested in issues like sustainability and society, Canadian identity, and economic inequality. In particular, UBC Mix is looking to support clusters that meet to research and discuss issues from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

To apply, simply submit a one page letter of intent to Brendan Clyde (bclyde@mail.ubc.ca) and Natalie Baloy (ubc-mix@interchange.ubc.ca). Letters of intent should include the following:

  • Applicant’s name
  • Program and year level
  • Area of research
  • Names, programs, and year levels of participating students
  • Brief outline of the work your research cluster will do.

Please feel also free to send Brendan an email to discuss your ideas, to find out how UBC Mix can support your project, and to get in touch with other students who are working in your area of study!


Consulting the Keeners: UBC Mix Student Panel

This summer, UBC Mix team member Sam Fenn is asking students how to Mix up their education. In July, he facilitated a student panel on interdisciplinarity. Participating students – the keeners, as Sam calls them – shared their insights on the values and challenges of interdisciplinary learning.

Student panelists emphasized the importance of developing interdisciplinary literacy, reaching out to the public, and addressing global problems through multidisciplinary teamwork and innovation. Read more at the Terry blog here!


You’re Invited! Student Panel on Interdisciplinarity and Student Involvement

UBC Mix is excited to invite you to our first ever panel on Interdisciplinarity and Student Involvement! This panel will be especially useful to arts and science students with a broad interest either in interdisciplinary pedagogy or global issues that have significance to both arts and science students. A complimentary lunch will be served.

Date: Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Time: 12:30 p.m.

Where: Lillooet Room in IK Barber Learning Centre

From internet security to sustainable development, from food ethics to global feminism, the issues most important to UBC students cannot be analyzed by a single discipline; they demand that we make connections with students from other departments and learn to incorporate new styles of inquiry in our work.

This is a great opportunity to be involved in a community of young scholars that thinks about these issues from a variety of perspectives. Come share your work with us, get involved in our upcoming initiatives, and meet other students with similar interests!

Please find a formal invitation attached to this email. If you have any questions or you would like to attend, send an email to UBC Mix coordinator Sam Fenn at sam.fenn@ubc.ca. We hope you will join us!

Image credit: Patricia Katchur


Mixing It Up! Notes – CTLT Institute Session 2012

On May 30, 2012, UBC Mix teamed up with other UBC interdisciplinarians to offer the workshop “Mixing It Up! Collaborating Across the Disciplines,” part of this year’s CTLT Institute. Lead by a great group of facilitators, the session explored the benefits and challenges of interdisciplinary teaching and learning.

Panel Discussion

To get things started, a panel shared their experiences across the spectrum of interdisciplinary possibilities.

  • Gordon Bates shared his experiences with Science One and highlighted its unique ability to get students thinking through multiple disciplinary lenses in the sciences.
  • Christina Hendricks explained the structure of Arts One, emphasizing the rewards of working with an interdisciplinary team of instructors on a unique and thoughtful curriculum.
  • Justin Ritchie explained how students and faculty can get involved in interdisciplinary thinking around issues of sustainability through UBC Reads Sustainability and the AMS Sustainability Projects Fund.
  • Allen Sens discussed the genesis of ASIC 200, an innovative course co-taught by Sens (Political Science) and David Ng (Biology).
  • Eugenia Yu explained how a Mix partnership between statistics and biology last year has been expanded, with advanced Statistics students offering consultation to graduate students in the School of Population and Public Health and participating in an interdisciplinary journal club.

Group Discussions

The rest of the session was dedicated to small and large group discussions to get participants sharing challenges and ideas from their various disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives. The facilitation team posted the six potential discussion questions:

  • What are the steps for designing an interdisciplinary course from the ground up?
  • How can I make my existing course more interdisciplinary?
  • How does disciplinary diversity in the classroom affect our teaching practice?
  • What are the challenges and benefits of interdisciplinary team teaching?
  • What are the barriers and challenges that exist around interdisciplinary teaching and learning?
  • Which concepts work well for interdisciplinary teaching?

Participants selected their top choices in a ‘dotmocracy‘ activity, with the most votes going to “How can I make my existing course more interdisciplinary?” and “What are the challenges and barriers around interdisciplinary teaching and learning?” Below are notes from the discussions for each question. There are also resource guides for all six questions above.

Question 1: How can I make my existing course more interdisciplinary?

Group 1

  • Problem-based learning
  • Pick main concepts in course
    • Create problems around these (e.g. 7-8 per term)
    • Students bring interdisciplinary prior knowledge in course
  • Student group projects
    • Put teams together from different disciplines
  • Sustainability theme for project – students pick topic, but have to look at it from (2 out of) 3 perspectives:
    • Environment
    • Economic (if they have the data)
    • Social
    • They have to do research on these three perspectives

Group 2

  • Using sources that are outside of classroom (plays, arts, museums + culture; issue-based)
  • Guest speakers (Skype)
  • Trade teaching time
  • Provide provocation – challenge, process
  • Create opportunities for exposure
  • Release – ‘take no responsibility for the outcome’

Group 3

  • Extra + co-curricular projects
  • Fieldtrips
  • Tutorials (subjects + content)
  • Assignments
  • Conversation, dialogue, collaboration
  • Interprofessional curriculum
  • Team teaching
  • Student engagement (mixing students)
  • Guest speakers
  • Practice communicating knowledge

Group 4

  • Having students from different departments collaborate on projects/discussions
  • Invite guest speakers to lectures (with students writing reflections)
  • Students working on wiki pages/online form
  • Have more forward/strategic/effective planning
  • Create learning goals
  • Different styles of inquiry on same text/subject

Group 5

  • Teaching language using interdisciplinary approaches
    • Watching documentaries
    • Putting people in unfamiliar situations
    • Inviting other classes and people from other disciplines to speak on course topics (ask students to translate)
    • Combining cultural aspects to provide context to language courses
  • Letting go of content and allowing the learning objectives to be re-evaluated
    • What is really relevant in the course?
    • Are there aspects that aren’t necessary?
  • Case studies
    • Create interdisciplinary case studies through math, science, chemistry, arts
    • Interactions with courses in other departments (UBC Mix!)
    • Guest speakers with reflections after
  • Data mash-ups
  • Courses with students from varied backgrounds
  • Bartering course time/time trades

Question 2: What are the challenges and barriers (and solutions!) to interdisciplinary teaching and learning?

Group 1

  • How to keep the conversation sustained
    • i.e. not a ‘mix for the moment’
    • How to deepen and broaden the insights from different disciplinary perspectives?
  • Design of course expectations that allows for a range of types of engagement
    • Map out parameters
    • Create specific tasks/assignments that require students from different disciplines to engage with each other to problem solve
    • Use assessment as a starting point in some cases
    • Joint planning

Group 2

  • Language itself provides barriers – treading on others’ toes
  • Scheduling
  • Historical/territorial nature
  • Not enough time
  • Curriculum
    • Preparation
    • Students’ time
    • Monitoring
  • Marketing – convincing students it’s worthwhile

Group 3

  • Teaching is private, closed
    • You can teach how you want, others rarely come in and see what you’re doing
    • Solutions to open up:
      • Put course on the web
      • Invite people to come visit your course
  • Lack of expertise beyond your discipline
    • Being willing to not be expert/authority
    • Guest speakers
    • Students do research and bring to class
    • Students brainstorm how to bring disciplinary perspectives together
  • If teaching in another program, need support, mentoring, dialogue with other instructors in the program
  • Scheduling and logistics
    • How to get two classes in one place at the same time
    • Videotape and watch asynchronously
    • Discussion online, or through Skype, group-conference video

Group 4

  • Values, disciplinary customs, specialty, etc. at risk
  • Finding collaborators
    • Attend a ‘Mixer’
  • Bureaucratic structure (perception, $)
    • Small scale support
    • Skylight
    • TLEF
    • UBC Mix
    • Faculty sharing (teaching/T/A time)
  • Control (over content, disciplinary authority)
    • Conversation with others who teach from another perspective
    • Re-evaluate/prioritize content in relation to learning
    • Many perspectives on same subject – find them
  • Time (instructor and student)
  • Anxiety
    • How will I understand other disciplines? (apply ‘team’ to real problem)
    • Risk to GPA: build into degree requirements (Cr/P/F)
    • Natural to learning – expose this – explain why this is important

Group 5

  • Time
    • Burning idea = motivator
    • Course designer
  • Support
    • Sustainability fund
    • TLEF $
    • Expenses, staffing
  • Evaluating efforts
    • Demonstrating impact
  • Awareness of opportunities
    • Knowing who to go to/talk to
  • Comfort
    • Do I need to brush up on previous topics?
  • Curriculum
    • What if this is an existing course?
    • Teaching less, learn more (learning oriented)
    • Departmental/degree requirements (all, general)
    • Integrated curriculum
    • Department buy-in
  • Scheduling
    • Fitting
    • Planning in advance – WAY in advance
    • Organization
    • Communication
    • UBC Mix
  • Inspiration
    • Where do I get ideas around how to approach indisciplinary
    • Exposure
    • Resources on campus (talks, etc.)
    • UBC Mix examples
  • Buy in
    • Make it a part of the course
    • Can’t be extra-curricular
    • For credit

Enabling and Enhancing Environmental Education

Terrestrial Research on Ecosystems and World-wide Education and Broadcast (TerreWEB) is a new program designed to bring faculty and students together to conduct global change research and to develop improved scientific communication strategies. Through the program, graduate students from the Faculties of Arts, Education, Forestry, Land and Food Systems, and Science are trained to use multimedia to better communicate their research to the general public, working toward a more sustainable future.

UBC Mix supported three TerreWEB projects last school year. First, Mix sponsored a student to use Web 2.0 strategies to promote TerreWEB’s interdisciplinary weekly seminar series and measure attendance and feedback.

Second, Mix subsidized the purchase of a digital camera for multi-disciplinary science communication film production workshops, which cover a wide range of topics like camera techniques, storytelling, and editing.

TerreWeb Fieldtrip to ForestEthics

Third, Mix supported a TerreWEB workshop on online communication and a networking fieldtrip. Students from Integrated Sciences and the School of Community and Regional Planning instructed fellow students on how to use blogs and social media to share their research findings. Next up was a fieldtrip to two of TerreWEB’s collaborating organizations to learn about their missions, projects, and student-community collaboration opportunities. Using the skills they developed in the communication workshop, students wrote blog entries about the fieldtrip and its lessons.

Image credits: terreweb.ubc.ca


‘Poverty is more than a collection of data’

In Spring 2012, Danse Crowkiller, a homeless resident of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, returned to UBC to share his experiences with homelessness, his philosophies on materialism, and his passion for carving.

Last year, economics instructor Catherine Douglas invited Danse and education consultant Jennifer Hales to speak with her class, ECON 317: Poverty and Inequality. She also invited students from Carla Paterson’s class on technology and development. Jennifer is the author of a resource guide to Learning about Homelessness in British Columbia.

This early Mix inspired Catherine to invite Danse and Jennifer for a repeat performance. This time, she collaborated with sociologist Carrie Yodanis and her course, SOCI 342: Consumers and Consumption.

In 2008 Danse participated in a CBC documentary (Devil Plays Hardball) that followed the journey of four homeless individuals and four housed mentors as they attempted to work together toward housing and other forms of stability. Interested in learning more from Danse’s perspective, filmmakers at Romantic Child Studios equipped Danse with a video camera to film his own experiences and thoughts. Jennifer screened an excerpt of the documentary, ‘The Purpose of Life Is Rice… Wink’ to introduce the students to Danse and gave a presentation on the causes and possible solutions for homelessness in British Columbia.

The rest of class time was set aside for a question and answer session with Danse. Danse said that ‘the meaning of life is learning’, passed around examples of his carving, and expressed his passion for the artform:

Photo of Danse Crowkiller (from the blog My Friend Danse)

Question: ‘What gets you up in the morning?’

Answer: ‘Carving.’

Question: ‘What do you own, Danse?’

Answer:  ‘My body… and my carving knife I suppose.’

While even Danse’s X-Acto knife is occasionally lost or broken, Danse’s positive attitude are  steadfast. One student remarked that he was impressed with “how an individual who is not well endowed monetarily can be so rich spiritually.”

Danse and Jennifer’s presentation managed to convey both the resilience of individuals like Danse as well as the systemic challenges he faces along with thousands of others experiencing homelessness today. Exploring the nuances of economics, inequality, and consumption, students from both classes had the opportunity to reconsider their coursework in light of Danse’s personal experience.

“The discussion gave us a real feel of what happens to people living with less than enough,” one student remarked. “It showed that poverty is more than a collection of data.”

This Mix got students thinking critically and locally about their course subject matter. UBC Mix collected brief feedback forms and students indicated that they highly value interdisciplinary learning. They want more opportunities to interact with each other and share their intellectual perspectives, experiences, and reflections. Mix will continue to find ways to build connection and foster interdisciplinary dialogue through inter-faculty and inter-community collaborations.

Fraternizing with Frankenstein

Arts One and Science One are interdisciplinary first-year programs offering integrated, team-taught curricula in humanities and science, respectively. Despite interdisciplinarity within the Arts One and Science One programs, there is little opportunity for students to interact with one another across the arts/science divide. UBC Mix has made this possible by supporting student-organized social engagements for the last two student cohorts.

In the 2010/2011 academic year, Fok-Shuen Leung and Brandon Konoval invited their students to St. John’s College for a lecture by Kishor Wasan (Neglected Global Diseases Initiative), dinner, live music, and conversation. In 2011/2012 Min Hyuk Lee and Darlene Munro planned another social engagement: movie night with Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The students chose the film because it addressed historical perceptions of the role and value of science as well as questions of morality, creating an opportunity for comparison with contemporary perspectives in the arts and sciences. Min Hyuk and Darlene hope that similar Mixes will become an Arts One/Science One tradition.

Image credit: FishLockerCafe


Interdisciplinary Problem-Based Learning: Practice, Application, and Activism

This spring, Royann Petrell, an instructor in the Chemical and Biological Engineering department, paired up with Kate Neville, an instructor in Political Science, to invite Mike Bell to speak with students enrolled in their courses CHBE 480: Hazardous Waste Processing Technology and POLI 375: Global Environmental Politics.

Mike is the co-chair of the Sierra Club in Comox Valley and discussed the concept of Earth Jurisprudence, a political-legal philosophy that emphasizes relationships between humans and the environment and the importance of a healthy earth.

Alaya Boisvert, community service coordinator for the Faculty of Applied Science, helped to design collaborative discussions after Mike’s talk to get students from engineering and political science working together on problems related to the environment, law, and governance.

In addition to catering this event and contributing an honorarium, UBC Mix matched Royann and Kate together to offer this innovative learning opportunity for their students. Both felt that their students benefited from the interdisciplinary dynamics Mike’s visit afforded.

Royann said, “Mike was [also] impressed by what happened. Each table had something different to add to the discussion. He and I are now convinced that Mixes have the potential to bring important issues to the attention of students.”

Kate agreed: “As environmental politics students, they often talk about interdisciplinary work (and many of them are also students of humanities and social sciences), but rarely interact with the applied sciences, so the interaction with the engineering students was valuable.” Kate’s students also expressed appreciation for the chance to hear a practitioner’s perspective: “We have not had the chance to interact with many people in the policy, advocacy, and activism communities directly, so Mike’s perspectives were of great interest to my students.”

On feedback forms, students were enthusiastic about interdisciplinarity and its real-world applications.

“This event is inspirational to my academic learning,” one student said. “It helps thinking outside the box and relating different disciplines together to a real-life project.”

“The interdisciplinary approach is one that fosters reflective insight from critical minds with different backgrounds,” wrote another.

“This was a pretty neat opportunity – I wish I participated in a lot more interdisciplinary work!”

Image credit: Chain of Wolves’ Flickr photostream


Increasing Rates of Success

In its first Mix incarnation, statistics students worked with biology students engaged in a ‘data mash-up’ activity. Since then, with the help of instructor and Mix partner Eugenia Yu, the Department of Statistics has expanded its interdisciplinary connections to work not only with biologists but also with students from the School of Population and Public Health (SPPH).

For the Biology-Stats Mix, statistics students visit the biology lab to learn a bit about the research the biologists are conducting. The biology students then produce a report using fresh data and send it to the statistics students, who prepare and present their statistical analyses back to the biologists, with the best model selected by vote. The first Mix was so successful that participating instructors repeated it again this year. A different kind of partnership has developed with SPPH. In this Mix, graduate students in statistics offer consultation services to SPPH graduate students in the form of joint journal club sessions. SPPH students pick a scholarly article to share, writing a blog entry about its arguments. The statistics students also read the article, then meet with SPPPH students to offer assistance reading and interpreting the statistical information presented. These Mixes are fast becoming part of the regular Statistics curriculum.

Image credit: Matthew Marksbury