Designing Interdisciplinary Learning Activities

Join us for an Interdisciplinary Community of Practice meeting!

Date: Monday, March 4th

Time: 2:30-4:30pm

Location: Seminar Room 2.22 – Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology

Please registerhttp://events.ctlt.ubc.ca/events/view/2273

How can you promote interdisciplinary thinking in your classroom? At this ICoP meeting we will explore how to design effective interdisciplinary courses and learning activities. Building from our last session on assessing interdisciplinary learning, we will discuss how to adapt and alter existing approaches to lesson design to encourage students to think across disciplines.

Sauder instructor Paul Cubbon will join us to share his experiences designing COMM 486S/JRNL 520A, a new course on social media. The course is cross-listed in Commerce and Journalism and is co-taught by Cubbon and Alfred Hermida. Paul will discuss the development of the course and lessons he is learning in its first term. (Click here to see Dr. Cubbon’s UBC TedX Talk.)

For the remainder of the meeting, we will brainstorm how to adapt different teaching techniques to enhance interdisciplinary learning. Please bring a question or example of your interdisciplinary teaching efforts to share with the group.

About the Interdisciplinary Community of Practice (ICoP): The ICoP emerged out of enthusiasm for UBC Mix, a project that supports classroom-level collaborations between two or more courses for interdisciplinary lessons. Scholars of higher education are increasingly recognizing the value of interdisciplinary thinking. The ICoP provides a space to think collectively about the practice and pedagogy of interdisciplinary teaching and learning at UBC. If you have questions or suggestions, please contact facilitators Natalie Baloy (ubc-mix@interchange.ubc.ca) and Hanae Tsukada (ctlt.prodev@ubc.ca).


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! Collaborating Across the Disciplines

Need some inspiration for interdisciplinary teaching and learning? Want to find ways to make your course more interdisciplinary, or locate potential collaborators across campus? Interested in team-teaching or creating integrated assignments? Check out notes and resources from this year’s CTLT Institute session Mixing It Up: Collaborating Across the Disciplines!

On May 30th, a team of ten facilitators with diverse disciplinary and teaching experiences led an interactive workshop on the benefits and challenges of interdisciplinarity in the classroom. Together facilitators and registrants shared best practices, lessons learned, and ideas in development. How can you engage in interdisciplinary teaching and enrich your students learning?

The CTLT Institute offers opportunities to network with other educators, share experiences and practice, and explore possibilities for teaching and learning. Check out some highlights for the thoughtful interdisciplinary practitioner:

Click here for a complete list of Institute events.


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