A New Model for Transdisciplinary Curriculum Development in Higher Education Using the Wicked Problems of Sustainability

Tuesday 3:45pm - 4:45pm Norway 2

David Szymanski, Bentley University
Ellen Iverson, Carleton College
Jana Bouwma-Gearhart, Oregon State University
Laura Jackson Young, Bentley University
Melissa Lenczewski, Northern Illinois University
Christine Mooney, Northern Illinois University
Rick Oches, Bentley University
John Ritter, Wittenberg University
Rachel Wilson, Wittenberg University

A scientifically literate citizenry is essential to meet the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and ensure that the U.S. remains economically competitive in an increasingly resource-constrained society. Yet neither STEM literacy nor a larger and stronger STEM workforce are sufficient to address the wicked problems of sustainability. It requires reshaping the way we educate future leaders across STEM as well as business to understand the intersections of disciplines to address socio-scientific problems. But developing truly transdisciplinary curricula that can develop requisite knowledge and skills and commitments needed to address wicked problems like sustainability is difficult. Until now, universities have had limited success in educating students even at the intersection of STEM disciplines, much less including disciplines from business or social sciences in curriculum development and instruction on this topic.

We present a model for faculty members' co-development of transdisciplinary curriculum, rooted in the wicked problem of sustainability. Business and Science: Integrated Curriculum for Sustainability (BASICS) is an NSF-funded partnership among faculty at Bentley University, Northern Illinois University, Wittenberg University, and the Science Education Resource Center (SERC). The project has produced two transdisciplinary curriculum modules that can be used in a range of courses. The modules, which are comprised of a collaboratively designed "common exercise," and course-specific exercises to provide disciplinary context, are freely available for use on the BASICS website (https://serc.carleton.edu/basics/).

The modules were developed and tested by teams of faculty in two overlapping two-year development cycles, with faculty gathering in "local learning communities" (LLCs) within and among the institutions. Assessment results demonstrate the modules are successful in building student knowledge and skills around sustainability. Equally important, the BASICS project develops faculty understanding, skills and practices, and commitment to transdisciplinary curriculum development and teaching, promising as one means to transformation higher education to better meet the needs of students and society.