Ten lessons from a transdisciplinary PhD program in sustainable development

Community member post by Marianne Penker

marianne-penker
Marianne Penker (biography)

Should a doctoral student specialise in transdisciplinary sustainable development research? What are the opportunities and challenges associated with undertaking a program that requires research integration and implementation?

At the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna in Austria, teams of PhD-students and academic supervisors collaborated with representatives from regions, cities, public authorities, businesses or civil society to solve pressing and often wicked sustainability problems. We learnt the following ten lessons. Continue reading

Advice to graduate students on becoming “translational”

Community member post by Alexis Erwin

alexis-erwin
Alexis Erwin (biography)

In an earlier post on this blog, Mark Brunson posed the questions: How does an ecologist become “translational”? What training is needed to venture beyond the lab or university and to engage with the potential beneficiaries or users of research? Here I offer my own thoughts as someone who started working to “become translational” halfway through a traditional ecology Ph.D. program.

Although the focus of this blog post is on translational ecology and on specific resources for graduate students in the U.S., I suggest the ideas are more widely applicable. Continue reading

A process model for teaching interdisciplinary research

Community member post by Machiel Keestra

machiel-keestra
Machiel Keestra (biography)

How can we effectively teach interdisciplinary research to undergraduate and masters students? What is needed to encompass research ranging from cultural analysis of an Etruscan religious symbol to the search for a sustainable solution for tomato farming in drying areas? Given that there is no predetermined set of theories, methods and insights, as is the case with disciplinary research, what would an interdisciplinary textbook cover? How can such a textbook accommodate the fact that interdisciplinary research usually requires students to collaborate with each other, for which they also need to be able to articulate their own cognitive processes? Continue reading

Training translational ecologists: Moving from accidental to intentional

Mark Brunson
Mark Brunson (biography)

Community member post by Mark Brunson

How does an ecologist become translational? What training is needed to venture beyond the lab or university and to engage with the potential beneficiaries or users of their research? To communicate with (and listen to) a lay audience, advise policymaking processes, initiate a citizen science project, or involve stakeholders in the design, analysis, and interpretation of research?

William Schlesinger (2010), in coining the term translational ecology, warned that “[u]nless the discoveries of ecological science are rapidly translated into meaningful actions, they will remain quietly archived while the biosphere degrades.” Continue reading

Transdisciplinarity: Learning together to teach together

Community member post by BinBin Pearce, Carolina Adler and Christian Pohl

pearce
BinBin Pearce (biography)

Are there innovative methods that enable students to frame and confront the complexity of real-world problems in the context of sustainable development? Which learning approaches help students engage with design thinking to understand a particular system, and also to start thinking about responsible solutions? Which approaches enable students to reflect on their own actions, as well as become aware of the importance of diverse stakeholder perspectives and how these play out in real-world contexts? Continue reading

Let’s play: Co-creating award courses for designing, teaching, researching, and facilitating transdisciplinarity – Transacademic Interface Managers as an example

Community member post by Katja Brundiers and Arnim Wiek

brundiers
Katja Brundiers (biography)
wiek
Arnim Wiek (biography)

Tanja Golja and Dena Fam concluded their article ‘Supporting academics learning to design, teach and research td-programs in higher education‘ with an invitation to other higher education and research institutions to share the state of play and their opportunities for collaboration. We are excited to respond to this call.

At Arizona State University (U.S.) various programs exist – across its schools and colleges – that allow students to work in transdisciplinary settings. These programs are avant-garde in many respects, e.g., pedagogical design, students’ learning outcomes, relationships with practice partners, implementation with real-world impact. Our experience with building a transdisciplinary and solution-oriented learning program at the School of Sustainability is documented in the article ‘Integrating Problem-and Project-based Learning into Sustainability Programs‘.

However, our examination of such programs internationally (PDF 840KB) shows that – with a few exceptions – many similar programs don’t entail a specific and scholarly-based transdisciplinary training module for students. Continue reading