Session 2

Papersession (Senaatszaal 1)

Exploring, Understanding and Doing Interdisciplinary Education

A three-step approach to guide lecturers and students through interdisciplinary analysis of complex security challenges.

Dr. Ruth Prins & Prof. Dr. Bibi van den Berg, Institute of Security and Global Affairs, Leiden University

Security challenges rank among the most pressing issues of our time. Think of terrorism, cyber- crime and extreme weather events like earthquakes and hurricanes. These challenges have complex causes, they cut across state- and institutional boundaries and oftentimes there is no straightforward solution available. Consequently, one needs to borrow insights from a wide variety of disciplines to understand causes, assess impact and formulate adequate solutions to modern day security challenges. When aiming to understand and address cyber-crime, for example, one needs to borrow from a myriad of academic disciplines. Psychology and sociology offer tools to understand individual and societal factors facilitating cyber-crime. Computer science provides tools for businesses and governments to conduct risks analysis. Public administration and law help to reflect on the possibilities and limitations to regulate cyber security threats. In other words, particular insights and methods present in various academic disciplines need to be selected and merged in order to arrive at a deeper understanding of complex societal challenges.

The brand new academic bachelor’s programme in Security Studies at Leiden University1 aims to train students in interdisciplinary assessment of contemporary security challenges. A new teaching philosophy has been developed and implemented to help lecturers design interdisciplinary courses and equip students with practical tools to carry out interdisciplinary analysis. Our three-step teaching philosophy is called ‘Explore, Understand and Do’ and relies heavily on case based learning. It helps to unravel complex cases by first exploring crucial events, actors and context (Explore), thereafter making an informed selection of theoretical insights and research methods from a wide variety of academic disciplines and apply them to the case (Understand), which eventually leads to an integrated and interdisciplinary analysis of causes, impact and solutions (Do). By merging relevant insights and methods from various academic disciplines this teaching philosophy guides lecturers and students through the basic steps of interdisciplinary analysis.

This paper introduces ‘Explore, Understand and Do’ as a new teaching philosophy for both course design and case analysis in interdisciplinary teaching and learning. It explains its conceptual roots and provides practical implications for curriculum developers, lecturers and students. Real life examples and best practices taken from the security domain will be given to demonstrate and explain the teaching philosophy. Moreover, recommendations will be made on how to use this teaching philosophy to carry out interdisciplinary analysis of other complex challenges present in today’s globalized world.

Developing a new type of interdisciplinary education through games

Dr Margien Bootsma, Dr Karin Rebel & Astrid Mangnus MSc, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development

In its strategic plan for 2016-2020, Utrecht University presented a set of key, university-wide aims. Among those is the aim to increase collaboration in interdisciplinary education and research. The plan also identified eleven thematic focus areas that require interdisciplinarity to fully grasp, explore and solve the societal questions related to them. One of these areas, that even got a strategic theme dedicated to it, is sustainability. A sustainable future is both dependent on and of the utmost importance for all people living on the planet. Therefore, the young leaders of the future that Utrecht University aims to educate should be introduced to sustainability themes in an interdisciplinary fashion, resulting in a broad foundational knowledge of the topic for all students. This should include learning the basic concepts of sustainability and how the students’ own education and work relates to those.

Utrecht University has strong Bachelors’ and Masters’ programmes in sustainability in place, but university-wide programmes on sustainability are currently lacking. To develop such a programme, we designed a new course: the Sustainability Game. In this course, honours students from all faculties work together in groups, mixed with HKU Academy of the Arts students from the Games and Interaction programme. Together, they learn about sustainability themes, and then continue with applied game prototyping. Games are excellent tools to use in interdisciplinary topics as they can allow for system analysis, the exploration of future worlds, and role-play and interaction between players. The interdisciplinary groups develop a number of game prototypes, the best of which will be further developed by professional game development studios. The final aim of the project is to have a game that can be played by all first year’s students of Utrecht University, to ensure long lasting interdisciplinary knowledge exchange on sustainability themes. The project is the first of its kind, and could ideally become a blueprint for interdisciplinary education projects on the university’s other strategic themes, such as ethics and citizenship. Investigating The Integration Of Crowdsourcing In Education

Vassilis-Javed Khan, Panos Markopoulos & Migchiel van Diggelen, TU Eindhoven

Educators actively seek the involvement of external parties in their educational activities to increase the relevance of teaching to society, motivate students and enrich the content of the course with potential applications of the taught material. Whether it is a guest lecture from an industry expert, a project inspired by an industrial context or an internship, all are sought after activities for both students and teachers alike.

Crowdsourcing is a development that has captured the attention of the public. In crowdsourcing, websites -online platforms- offer work, usually in exchange for money, which can be conducted by virtually anyone, but also other tasks that require more specialized skills. Usually, contributors -commonly referred to as “workers”- compete to get the prize associated with the work. There are literally hundreds of different platforms that offer millions of tasks at the time of writing this paper. Since tasks are already publicly available online, there is a unique opportunity to integrate their performance in educational activities.

Our assumption is that this integration will: stimulate students’ external motivation; improve students’ understanding of real stakeholders’ requirements and ways of communication; help teachers and students benchmark the students’ competencies in relation to real-world competition; offer teachers a steady and on- demand pool of industry- relevant activities. Our main objective with this presentation is to present the results of an investigation of –a platform that crawls eight existing crowdsourcing platforms and recommends tasks to teachers and students- on the teachers’ and students’ attitude towards this concept.

The challenges we foresee is to make sure learning objectives are closely matched to tasks; make experience seamless for teacher; make sure expectations of integration are met for both students and teachers alike.
Preliminary findings of our study show that students are overall very positive about the concept:

“So I think it’s really cool that you can offer people the chance to do more with what they’ve learnt in a short period of time”, Male, Final Bachelor
“I think the basic idea of bringing probably more industry-related problems to the students is a cool idea with cool motivation to kind of participate in a world-style competition”, Male, Pre-Masters

During the conference we will present:

  1. The results of in-depth interviews with 30 students and teachers about the concept itself
  2. The crowdsourcing data we have gather over four months from Educrowd
  3. The results of interviews with 10 students after having tried out Educrowd 
for a period of two weeks
  4. Demo the platform itself

Workshop (Senaatszaal 2)

Facilitating interprofessional learning of students: the role of the teacher

Mrs. Dr. Anita Stevens, Zuyd University of Applied Science, Faculty of Health

The literature demonstrates the need for health care students to learn together to be enabled to collaborate effectively to provide best quality care to patients (Reeves 2016). One of the success factors of high-quality interprofessional education is the skills of faculty members to support interprofessional learning among students from different professional backgrounds. (Freeman, Wright, & Lindqvist. 2010)

The overall aim of this interactive workshop is to clarify an understanding of IPE and prepare faculty staff to facilitate interprofessional learning and collaborative team working.  This workshop is for faculty staff, policy makers, curriculum managers and students, who are commencing interprofessional education.

The workshop will commence with a small exercise getting to know each other and building relationships, followed by an open forum of IP education and curriculum. Key factors for successful planning and developing IPE will be presented. The workshop ends with reflection and discussion. Interactive learning methods will be used in smaller groups. The workshop experience will role model successful facilitation of learning.

Participants on completion of the workshop will:

  1. Identify ground rules of facilitating interprofessional learning,
  2. Identify strengths, challenges and opportunities faculty staff may encounter,
  3. Develop successful strategies engaging key stakeholders,
  4. Be prepared for the interprofessional teaching role  focussing on skills of facilitation and faculty development.

Freeman, S., Wright, A., & Lindqvist, S. (2010) Facilitator training for educators involved in interprofessional learning, Journal of Interprofessional Care, 24:4,
Reeves, S (2016) Why we need interprofessional education
to improve the delivery of safe and effective care, Interface (Botucatu). 2016; 20(56):185-96.

Papersession (Blauwe zaal)

Equipping University Students with Transdisciplinary Consulting Competence: the Development of an Effective Learning Trajectory

Dr. Valentina Tassone, Dr. Elsbeth Spelt, Dr. Stefan Wahlen, Prof. Perry den Brok, Wageningen University

This contribution reports on a new Transdisciplinary Learning Trajectory within the Academic Consultancy Training (ACT) course at Wageningen University. In this presentation, we describe the background of the course, the need for designing the trajectory and its development. Especially, we welcome comments on the new trajectory and course design.


The Academic Consultancy Training (ACT) is a capstone Master course of 9 ECTS at Wageningen University (WU). Almost 1,000 students per year from 19 different social and technical study programs within the domain of food and living environment enrol in ACT. The course engages more than 150 WU staff (coordinators, teachers, coaches and scientists) from various disciplines at WU. During the course, students with diverse disciplinary backgrounds collaboratively work on a consultancy advice for a societal organization facing a complex challenge. Annually, about 150 organizations, i.e. governmental, business and civil society organizations, are provided with an advice via the course.

Overall, ACT students operate within a transdisciplinary learning environment, which encourages them to integrate knowledge from different disciplines and to include the perspectives of different stakeholders in their advice. Students highly appreciate the ACT course and its learning environment, as demonstrated by the Wageningen University Excellent Education price awarded to the course in 2017. Nevertheless, both students and teachers express the need for tools and teaching materials that support transdisciplinary competence development. Although the course provides a transdisciplinary learning environment, the current course design does not employ specific teaching and learning methods targeted at the development of students’ transdisciplinary competence.

Scope of the new learning trajectory and approach

Within the current setup of ACT, a “Transdisciplinary Learning Trajectory” (TLT) is now designed. The objective of the TLT is to foster students’ transdisciplinary consulting competence, namely shared problem-framing, data co-generation and final synthesis of multiple data and perspectives leading to the elaboration of a final transdisciplinary advice. The embedding of the new TLT in ACT occurs via three interventions:

  1. new learning outcomes focusing on the development of transdisciplinary competence;
  2. new assessment of students learning implemented by creating rubrics for assessing transdisciplinary learning and the achievement of the new learning outcomes; and,
  3. new teaching and learning materials developed in alignment with the new learning outcomes and with the new rubrics to be used for transdisciplinary learning.

The three TLT interventions are inserted in the course based on the principle of constructive alignment. We are currently working towards further defining those interventions. For example: we are developing new teaching and learning material for supporting students, in the project proposal phase, to work towards a shared-problem framing, i.e. a shared understanding of the challenge at hand and the development of joint research questions that converge disciplinary viewpoints and societal perspectives. We are also elaborating aligned rubrics, to assess the transdisciplinary character of the project proposal and the achievement of one learning outcome focusing on the acquisition of shared-problem framing capabilities.

The interdisciplinary nature of degrowth

Dr Crelis Rammelt, University of Amsterdam, Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies

Economic growth lies at the heart of an unprecedented multidimensional mess. The increasing global demand for food, water, timber and fuel has led to land degradation, eutrophication, coral bleaching, water depletion, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and so on. This increasing strain on natural systems, that already confronted past generations, will even more profoundly affect those in the near future. As we cannot increase the size of the pie indefinitely on ecological grounds, the concerns about its unequal distribution has become more and more pressing. It is clear that not everyone received a fair share and an already substantial gap between rich and poor continues to widen. As this socioecological collision course unfolds, it gives rise to a serious dilemma. When growth fails, innovation stops, companies are outcompeted, recessions loom, banks collapse, businesses foreclose and people lose employment. Political and media circles worldwide nervously monitor the stability of the quarterly growth rate, which continues to be the most important policy goal from left to right.

Rather than being fatalistic about it, this opens up extraordinary space for imagination and experimentation. One such idea is degrowth. This transdisciplinary movement rests partly on the natural and physical sciences to provide a sound basis for facing up to the biophysical limits of our economic activities. But human behavior is not only the outcome of a complex network of relationships and constraints at the physical and biological level; it is also the result of evolutionary changes in social and cultural frameworks. Degrowth therefore equally rests on visionary research in the social sciences and humanities. This course invites students from different backgrounds and doesn’t require particular specialist knowledge.

Last year, twenty students participated in a first Degrowth course as part of the interdiscipliunary VU/UvA Honours programme. Learning in this course was facilitated by several activities. First, the course consists of weekly seminars on the following six themes: capital, environment, money, globalization, work and needs. The first half of the course consisted of problem analyses of these themes. In the second half of the course, we looked at these same themes but from a more constructive perspective. We analysed the solution strategies and alternative systems of production and consumption suggested in the degrowth movement. Second, students wrote individual weekly reviews of readings and documentaries from a range of disciplines and perspectives. Third, student groups prepared mini debates on the content of the weekly readings and conducted research on one of the six themes. They submitted their findings in the form of a research paper for a hypothetical ‘Journal of Degrowth’. They also facilitated further exploration of their findings during a group seminar, which they designed themselves.

The proposed paper describes the interdisciplinary nature of degrowth, and how this was structured during the course: six themes, two parts (problem- and solution-oriented) and systemic approach (for zooming in on each theme without losing sight of bigger picture and the connections with other themes). The paper also reflects on the interdisciplinary and systemic nature of student learning (box illustrations).