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Holding Complexity: Lessons from Team-Teaching an Interdisciplinary Collegiate Course on Urban Sustainability

Department of Geography, George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052, USA
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Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(5), 76; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9050076
Received: 26 February 2020 / Revised: 25 April 2020 / Accepted: 30 April 2020 / Published: 12 May 2020
Lead instructors discuss the structure, opportunities, and pedagogical challenges of an interdisciplinary team-taught course on urban sustainability involving seven professors from six departments across four of George Washington University’s schools over five years. The teaching team prioritized presenting and exploring diverse perspectives on urban sustainability, seeing a key learning objective of this course in students (1) learning to make links between disciplines; (2) having opportunities to reflect, disagree, share, and develop their own perspectives; and (3) developing a life-long engagement and openness with ideas and learning. This is challenging for many students. To promote student learning and engagement in the class, we utilize active-learning and cooperative discussion techniques, and see these as times that the class reaches “interdisciplinarity”. We employ place-based pedagogical approaches, focusing the class on the case-study (and students’ adopted hometown) of Washington D.C., finding that a “layering” of perspectives on a single city helps students see disciplinary similarities and differences more clearly. For those considering a large-team interdisciplinary course, we stress the importance of a lead instructor for coordination—both conceptually and administratively—and adequate institutional support for this unique and challenging endeavor. View Full-Text
Keywords: urban sustainability; interdisciplinary teaching; team-teaching; place-based learning; cooperative discussion; Think-Pair-Share urban sustainability; interdisciplinary teaching; team-teaching; place-based learning; cooperative discussion; Think-Pair-Share
MDPI and ACS Style

Keeley, M.; Benton-Short, L. Holding Complexity: Lessons from Team-Teaching an Interdisciplinary Collegiate Course on Urban Sustainability. Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 76.

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