Learning about experiences in interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary and design-thinking teaching

On 17th February my colleague Luci Gommers and I participated in the teaching workshop „Sharing experiences in interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary and design-thinking teaching“ at the ETH Zürich. At the beginning, Prof. Dr. Stauffacher and Dr. Christan Pohl from the USYS td LAB presented their understanding of relevant terminologies (see figure):

transdisciplinary research

In focus is the interaction of science and society in order to foster institutional and individual responsibility for the problems of society. Thus, the methods have to bridge the field of science and real-world problems. This idea is also the basis of our projects of integrating sustainability and responsibility in a business curriculum. So it was interesting to get to know similar ideas, even though research at the ETH is in most cases situated in the field of natural sciences.

In the presentations in the morning the experts presented their research on the topics as well as questions for the following Workshops.

  • BinBin J. Pearce is an expert in design thinking. In her workshop we had to use design thinking as a tool to foster teaching challenges. We focused on the first steps (understand the problem and define the problem). For the other steps (brainstorm solutions, prototyping solution and testing solution) wasn´t enough time. The idea of these steps reminded us of ideas of problem-oriented learning as one principle to foster responsibility.
  • In her workshop Prof. Dr. Linda Neuhauser gave us a brief theoretical introduction in design research. After, we did an exercise to show an example of a tool to foster participatory designing an intervention. Everybody got a bunch of post-its and wrote down their ideas to solve a specific problem. After, the ideas got bundled and combined. The target was to bring together different stakeholders with their different perspectives. The tool helps to let creativity flow and open up the minds, without discussing limitations directly.
  • Luis González Fuenzalida presented his internship program for engineers in Chile. He used a specific way of the back-casting method for the preparation of the students. The systematization of the insights from the field in a specific way can be used to proceed a construction of a target path. In the workshop he wanted to focus the interesting question how to bring practical problems into field of scientific Research.
  • Karen Fortuin introduced us to the complex problems environmental scientist and practitioners face nowadays and the demand for inter- and transdisciplinary problem solving. She wrote her dissertation about ‚Heuristic principles to teach and learn boundary crossing skills in environmental science education’. She emphasized the need for boundary crossing skills. In her workshop we discussed this principles and the possibilities and impediments to implement them in higher educational practices.
  • Dr. Michael Stauffacher presented a concrete project of the ETH: Students discover and develop solution problems for the waste problem on the Seychelles. With his presentation he wanted to discuss challenges and benefits of teaching abroad in the context of transdisciplinary Research.

Now, we are interested in your experience with inter- and transdisciplinary teaching and learning methods, their possibilities and impediments and would kindly invite you to share them with us in our blog!