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M. Bell (2014)Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia
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Many graduate programs in environmental studies attempt to foster specialized knowledge and technical skills alongside inter- disciplinary collaboration and integration. We discuss strategies for addressing these distinct—sometimes competing—goals in Evergreen State College’s Graduate Program on the Environment. Key strategies include (1) designing an academic program that balances specialization and integration; (2) approaching course planning with a “backward design model” that focuses on teaching outcomes rather than “covering” disciplinary content; (3) designing group assignments that require collaborative and multidisciplinary research and networking among students; (4) approaching thesis projects using place-based issues or research problems/questions developed in conjunction with local or regional organizations and a clear identification of relevant commu- nities of practice to inform the scholarly work and analysis. Finally, we address the challenge of creating equitable social dynamics in teaching teams and offer reflections based on our 30-year tradition of collaborative team-teaching at the graduate level. . . . . Keywords Collaborative teaching Interdisciplinary learning Graduate education Environmental studies Evergreen State College Introduction For us the 30th anniversary of the Masters of Environmental Studies (MES) degree at The Evergreen State Interdisciplinary environmental and sustainability (IES) pro- College (Olympia, Washington) provided a unique opportuni- grams at the master’s level have proliferated in recent years. ty to explore such questions. Former directors and faculty ThenumberofIES master’s degrees increased by 68% between discussed the challenges of stewarding the program over three 2008 and 2012; this trend is expected to continue through the end decades. Many of our approximately 800 alumni over the past of this decade. Many of these programs focus on interdisciplinary 30 years have shared a recurring feedback—through exit sur- approaches to sustainability, energy, engineering, and global is- veys and informal conversations—about how much they val- sues (Vincent et al. 2015). The emergence of new programs with ued their interdisciplinary education. Their reflections con- diverse orientations prompted us to evaluate current models of vinced us that—despite our institution’squirkiness—our cur- interdisciplinary graduate education. What existing curricular riculum, courses, and teaching practices might be of interest to structures and teaching practices help our students prepare for IES faculty and administrators. future environmental careers? What structures and practices Since its founding as a public, liberal arts college in 1968, should be added, strengthened, or eliminated? What can faculty Evergreen has embraced interdisciplinary education. In course and directors of long-standing programs offer to emerging pro- design, faculty teams focus on a common question or theme that grams in the way of models and reflections? can be addressed from multiple disciplines. Faculty members teach within areas of specialization but also struggle alongside students to understand material beyond their disciplines. Formal * Kevin Francis assessment takes the form of faculty narrative evaluations and email@example.com student self-reflections, followed by one-on-one conferences. In order to facilitate broad collaboration across disciplines, the col- lege operates without strong departmental structures. When fac- The Evergreen State College, 2700 Evergreen Parkway NW, Olympia, WA 98505, USA ulty developed the MES program in the mid-1980s, they adopted 344 J Environ Stud Sci (2018) 8:343–350 these educational principles and practices from the undergraduate (2) Support for developing collaboration skills that enable curriculum. With interdisciplinary team-taught courses as the advancement through integration. norm, we have a unique perspective for assessing the benefits and challenges of this approach. In our experience, environmental work requires collabora- Following Mansilla and Duraising (2007, p. 337), we con- tion with other experts from disparate backgrounds. IES pro- sider interdisciplinary understanding as “the capacitytointe- grams should help students develop the cognitive and inter- grate knowledge and modes of thinking in two or more disci- personal skills required for successful collaborative work. In plines or established areas of expertise to produce a cognitive the NCSE survey, IES program administrators rated “team- advancement—such as explaining a phenomena, solving a work” as the most important skill within the managerial/inter- problem, or creating a product—in ways that would have been personal/community engagement category (Vincent et al. impossible or unlikely through single disciplinary means.” 2015). We share course structures and assignments that, in This performative approach emphasizes the practical out- our experience, help students develop their capacities for comes of interdisciplinary work rather than valuing integra- working effectively as members of interdisciplinary teams. tion as an end in itself. They articulate three criteria of inter- disciplinary understanding: (1) work shows disciplinary (3) Support for critical awareness of interdisciplinary strat- grounding by incorporating relevant theories, methods, vali- egies to understand environmental issues. dation criteria, and language; (2) work shows advancement through integration to produce explanations or solutions that An effective scholar or practitioner must determine wheth- are more complex, empirically grounded, or comprehensive; er an interdisciplinary approach makes sense and which dis- (3) work shows critical awareness of the relative merits and ciplines are most relevant to understand an issue or solve an contributions of various disciplines (Mansilla and Duraising environmental problem. The capacity to exercise informed 2007). These criteria match three overarching objectives for judgment in such cases requires a solid foundation in key our program. Recent studies by the National Center for disciplines that might be relevant to an environmental issue, Science and the Environment (NCSE) suggest that they are including basic knowledge, aims, and methodology; an ability shared by many graduate interdisciplinary environmental and to prioritize which disciplines should be drawn into the anal- sustainability (IES) programs (Vincent et al. 2015). ysis; and the capacity to step back and consider the broader framework in which situations are defined as problems. We (1) Support for developing specialized disciplinary knowl- discuss courses and assignments that can help students devel- edge and technical skills that provide the foundation op this kind of critical and nuanced sensibility. for integration across disciplines. The main sections below examine our efforts to address these overarching objectives through (1) balancing specializa- The persistent tension between “breadth” and “depth” in tion and integration in the curriculum, (2) developing interdis- the undergraduate curriculum becomes even more pro- ciplinary courses, (3) fostering collaboration in project work, nounced at the graduate level. NCSE identified two clusters (4) supporting thesis research, and (5) addressing disciplinary among graduate IES programs with respect to specialization: and social inequities in teaching teams. one educates an “environmental scientist” through “depth in a traditional discipline”; the other educates an “environmental problem solver” through “broad and flexible knowledge.” Balancing specialization and integration We have developed strategies at various levels—from overall in the curriculum curriculum to individual assignments—that attempt to strike a balance between disciplinary expertise and integration across The MES program offers a 72-credit degree curriculum that disciplines. typically takes 2 years to complete. To earn the degree, a student must complete first-year core courses (24 credits), In the NCSE survey, graduate administrators were asked to rate the impor- electives or internships (24 credits), and a thesis project (24 tance of 41 knowledge areas and 38 skill areas. For graduate degrees, those credits). Each fall an entering cohort of approximately 45 stu- areas with mean importance ratings in the “moderate” to “high” range include dents begins a sequence of interdisciplinary team-taught 1 of 27 areas of disciplinary knowledge (ecology), 4 of 14 areas of interdisci- plinary knowledge (climate change/disruption, natural resource management, courses: Conceptualizing of our Regional Environment (fall), environmental sustainability, sustainability general concepts), and 19 of 38 Ecological and Social Sustainability (winter), and Research skill areas across all categories (Vincent et al. 2015). Design and Quantitative Methods (spring). These courses We suggest one caveat to the term “environmental problem solvers.” Avital component of our program—and, we suspect, many other IES programs—are meet twice per week in the evening. In the second year, stu- the disciplines (e.g., environmental history, political ecology) that provide dents design and implement a thesis project, starting with students with a more critical and nuanced lens for viewing the way specific Case Studies and Thesis Design (fall) and continuing with circumstances or events are constructed as “environmental problems.” See Toadvine (2011). Thesis Workshop (winter, spring). The MES curriculum J Environ Stud Sci (2018) 8:343–350 345 structure has remained quite stable for the past 30 years, with teaching, we have experimented with many strategies for in- some adjustments to reflect shifting priorities and rotating fac- tegrating multiple disciplines into a cohesive intellectual jour- ulty (Table 1). ney. Three examples from our core curriculum follow. The MES curriculum attempts to provide a broad founda- tion for meaningful interdisciplinary work and opportunities Strategy 1. Explore historical parallels across disciplines for students to develop expertise within specific areas of pro- fessional interest. The disciplines in the core curriculum vary Conceptualizing Our Regional Environment introduces with particular faculty, but usually include ecology, climate students to key disciplines within environmental studies. An science, geography, economics, systems theory, and sustain- ecologist, historian of science, and political ecologist taught ability studies. In addition, core courses address key compe- the program in recent years. This course integrates historical tencies or skills, such as critical thinking, argumentation and development and foundational concepts of these disciplines to expository writing, research and technical writing, collabora- highlight common assumptions and methodologies. We ex- tive problem-solving, statistical analysis and research design. amine the way that ecologists embraced disparate ideas as While the first-year core curriculum reflects general agree- guiding analogies: balance of nature from natural theology, ment with our NCSE colleagues about the importance of skill competition and natural selection from laissez faire econom- areas, it also emphasizes disciplinary grounding as the foun- ics, ecological succession from developmental physiology, dation for interdisciplinary work. environmental determinism from geography, and feedback Moreover, the overall curriculum provides many opportu- loops from systems theory. We also explore how ecology nities for students to develop disciplinary and technical exper- has served as an inspiration for political movements con- tise through electives, internships, and thesis research. cerned with population growth, resource conservation, and Students may take electives and internships in both years. climate change. Both lines of inquiry raise questions about The electives include topics within the faculty’s areas of aca- the way scientific expertise has both reified and challenged demic specialization or professional work; some emphasize economic and social inequities. We hope students learn that specialized skills like GIS/spatial analysis or qualitative re- cross-fertilization between disciplines has a complex and search methods. Many students also complete internships with problematic history that precedes the emergence of “interdis- government agencies or NGOs to fulfill some of the elective ciplinary” as a buzzword in the late twentieth century. requirements. Between the thesis and electives, students have a high level of autonomy to tailor the program’soffering to Strategy 2. Address a pressing environmental problem their own academic and professional ambitions. using knowledge and methods from multiple disciplines Ecological and Social Sustainability addresses theoretical, Interdisciplinary course design practical, and ethical challenges of sustainable development through systems thinking, complexity, and interdisciplinary Many institutions want to make team-taught courses part of problem-solving. For the past 2 years, our faculty team had their move toward interdisciplinary education. We have found expertise in biogeochemistry, political ecology, and econom- that assumptions and models from our own disciplinary edu- ics. We integrate these disciplines around the multi-faceted cation can interfere with effective course design. At a broad problems posed by global climate change. As context for cur- level, many teachers feel responsible for “covering” or rent anthropogenic changes in carbon dioxide emissions, we “representing” their disciplines, well-meaning impulses that study the carbon cycle over different geologic timescales up to become problematic when a faculty team must distribute the present. We explore what changes in economic structures, class-time among multiple disciplines and the meaningful in- activities and policies are required to achieve emission reduc- tegration of these disciplines. In this context, teaching for dis- tions, and how these policies may ultimately fail if so-called ciplinary coverage is often a luxury. At a more nuanced level, “solutions” lead to greater marginalization of vulnerable most professors have absorbed assumptions about the peda- groups. By examining climate change through these different gogical organization of their disciplines and transfer them to perspectives, students employ an interdisciplinary, systems- their course design. Historians, for example, typically default thinking approach to grapple with the most pressing environ- to a chronological arrangement of material. We recommend mental issue of our lifetimes. disrupting such fallback assumptions in deliberate ways. One approach involves adopting a “backward design” process that Strategy 3. Develop technical skills through applications explicitly identifies learning outcomes and then determines across multiple disciplines the content and methods from each discipline that will help students achieve those outcomes (Wiggins and McTighe Research Design and Quantitative Methods builds on the principle that many social and natural sciences use common 2001). During our collective years of experience in team- 346 J Environ Stud Sci (2018) 8:343–350 Table 1 Core curriculum in Evergreen’s MES program First year (core courses): 24 credits Fall Winter Spring Conceptualizing Our Regional Environment Ecological and Social Sustainability Research Design and Quantitative Methods Second year (thesis): 24 credits Fall Winter Spring Case Studies and Thesis Design Thesis Workshop Thesis Workshop statistical methods. For the past 2 years, an ecologist, econo- hatcheries) and have different undergraduate backgrounds mist, and policy expert have taught the course. We focus on (e.g., biology, chemistry, business, policy). The group delin- skills acquisition and practice in lectures, computer labs, and eates the problem, identifies stakeholders, and determines projects with examples that illustrate the use (and misuse) of areas of necessary expertise. Students quickly realize they quantitative methods from many disciplines. Students grapple must strategize about which disciplines are most critical to with data sets from ornithology, herpetology, forestry, biogeo- address the problem. chemistry, economics, and energy studies to get practical ex- After these preliminary steps, students complete two major perience analyzing real world data. Finally, they write a grant assignments that incorporate both individual and group work. proposal that articulates a well-grounded research question For the first assignment, each student researches one aspect of and develops a quantitative methodology for answering it. the problem and produces a technical report that explains and By illustrating how quantitative skills transcend disciplinary synthesizes key conclusions. For some students, writing the boundaries, this approach motivates students to acquire and technical report is an ambitious and difficult assignment due to refine statistical competence. They come to value their new the specialized topic and source material. To maintain a cohe- expertise as a foothold for understanding diverse areas of sive focus on overall project goals, group members share an- knowledge. notated bibliographies and drafts of their technical reports for peer review. In addition to developing collaborative editing and feedback skills, this activity motivates individual research Fostering collaborative skills through group and writing. Because the technical report is the primary meth- project work od of educating their colleagues, a topic that might once have seemed esoteric or narrow is now viewed as being critical to The previous section offered some models for faculty to con- common understanding. The other students learn new theories sider when designing integrated courses; this section describes and terminology through discussion and peer review. Each a major project that provides students with authentic and prac- group makes a formal presentation to the class that introduces tical experience collaborating across disciplines. In the problem and stakeholders, summarizes the key informa- Conceptualizing Our Regional Environment, students mimic tion from the technical reports, and offers preliminary a common professional experience by working in small solutions. groups to study a local environmental problem and propose For the second major assignment, students co-author a pro- a workable solution. The assignment has three main objec- posal that integrates essential material from their technical tives: (1) to improve research and writing skills, (2) to develop papers and provides a conceptual framework and practical cognitive and interpersonal tools for teamwork across disci- strategy for addressing their chosen problem. Although the plines, and (3) to introduce students to major environmental primary audience is usually a relevant decision-maker, this issues in the Pacific Northwest. Here, we describe our ap- proposal might also be aimed at key stakeholders or a broader proach to this assignment, as well as the some of its rewards community. Successful proposals move beyond “technical” and challenges. solutions to consider public education and outreach, economic feasibility, and political will. To produce the final Group project structure and assignment sequence paper, some groups must work across substantial philosophical or personal differences to reach agreement on Because teamwork is integral to professional success, we de- a common vision and plan. Such tensions often emerge in the vote time to this project each week. During the first week, the question and answer session following a brief public class brainstorms a list of local environmental problems and presentation of their proposal. forms interest groups of 3–5 students around these problems. At various points during the quarter, students read articles Group members share an interest in a given topic (e.g., under- about interdisciplinary collaboration. For example, Lele and Norgaard (2005) address four barriers to interdisciplinary standing the impacts of ocean acidification on local oyster J Environ Stud Sci (2018) 8:343–350 347 work and identify implicit assumptions and value judgments develop and demonstrate expertise during a student’s final that, if left unexamined, can undermine effective collabora- year. Students have affirmed both the “academic” and “pro- tion. Class discussions of such reading helps students realize fessional” value of the 16-credit research thesis. In a recent that interdisciplinary work is inherently challenging and better survey of graduates, all respondents viewed the thesis as an equips them to deal with some of the tensions that arise in real important contribution to their intellectual development—in- time. dicating advances in areas such as critical thinking, data anal- ysis, and writing—and professional development—with not- Rewards and challenges ed gains in specialized knowledge, technical skills, and collaboration. Both student feedback and our own observations suggest that Some thesis research integrates multiple disciplines to de- the project meets its objectives. Students report that it im- velop a novel insight. For example, many students use GIS to proves their understanding of critical content by having frank connect diverse environmental variables through spatial anal- conversations about unfamiliar topics with peers who have ysis. Keese (2014) assessed multifunctional landscape designs developed expertise and are also approachable. For many, this that attempt to conserve habitat while providing wind and is the first time that they have worked with others from differ- solar energy. Sanderson (2013) investigated the causes of eu- ent backgrounds, and they report that it has enhanced their trophication in coastal waters by comparing land use patterns eagerness and ability to work in an interdisciplinary collabo- with stable nitrogen isotope levels in marine algae at nine sites rative setting. Further, they indicate that it broadens their per- in the Puget Sound. spective as they consider dimensions that they may not have However, many students complete novel and valuable re- previously recognized as being important. From our perspec- search that arguably fits within traditional disciplines. For ex- tive, another factor in the project’s success is that it involves ample, recent graduates have published their work on envi- both individual and group work, which alleviates student ronmental education in prisons (Weber et al. 2015), pollinators stress that arises when all assessment rests on group work. in prairie restoration (Buckingham et al. 2016, Husby et al. Two challenges continue to inspire adjustments. First, due 2015), and volunteer motivations in environmental organiza- to the emphasis on the individual to develop disciplinary ex- tions (Alender 2016). pertise, the project can sometimes seem multidisciplinary rath- Several pressures encourage disciplinary research. First, er than closely integrated. Despite this potential flaw, we see students recognize that many discrete research questions the practical value—as a model for professional work—of this can, in fact, be answered through the lens of a single disci- approach to integration (Lardner and Malnarich 2009). pline. Second, students might want to improve disciplinary However, our students may be better served if we reduce the expertise or technical skills that will prepare them for specific positions after graduating, which they can develop and dem- emphasis on identifying critical disciplines and instead en- courage students to identify critical questions that need to be onstrate through a narrow project. Finally, students—and fac- researched. This may help students target their research and ulty—are concerned about feasibility. To successfully com- think about the integration process earlier, as students could plete original research, students must navigate the scholarship envision hypothetical answers to their questions in advance of within at least one discipline, design a research question that doing their research and could map out how they would inte- responds to this scholarship, develop competence in at least grate this information to develop a solution. one technique of data collection and analysis, and effectively Another challenge arises when integrating individual work communicate their research. Multiple disciplines and methods to generate a solution. Some proposals seem like a patchwork add complexity to each step in the research process. effort, with a series of solutions raised by each discipline. We Because thesis research with clear and narrow boundaries propose to have groups exchange proposals and conduct peer- has pragmatic merits—timely completion of the degree and reviews, assessing whether the proposal meets the elements of demonstration of specific expertise—we face a dilemma. Our interdisciplinary work articulated by Mansilla and Duraising program has strong interdisciplinary aspirations and struc- (2007). By providing a rubric with these expectations, more tures. On the other hand, conceptual and practical pressures proposals are likely to become truly interdisciplinary. justifiably encourage students to pursue disciplinary research. Our response has been to experiment with various strategies that promote an interdisciplinary framework for all research Supporting thesis research within an questions, even those that narrow in the course of collecting interdisciplinary framework and analyzing data. One strategy is to encourage students to focus on case The group project introduces students to the theory and prac- studies that have clear spatial and temporal boundaries. tice of interdisciplinary collaboration in their first quarter of Research at a local scale often expands—organically—into multiple disciplines as students investigate the ecological graduate study; the thesis project provides an opportunity to 348 J Environ Stud Sci (2018) 8:343–350 setting, political and economic dimensions, and cultural second year, students take Case Studies and Thesis Design history of an environmental issue. At the same time, a local where they write a literature review and develop a prospectus. setting provides limits on research scope that differ from They review their colleagues’ literature reviews and share disciplinary boundaries. Garlesky (2015) examined a proposal their research via posters and presentations. Such activities to remove the Capitol Lake dam, which required extensive foster substantive conversations about the diverse methods research into the geomorphology and ecology of the that scholars employ to answer environmental questions, as Deschutes River, the economic feasibility of different pro- well as challenge students to communicate their work to au- posed projects, and political history of Olympia. diences outside their disciplinary focus. Students meet period- To help students develop research questions on local issues, ically in thesis workshops during the next two quarters and we host a “thesis idea fair” where government agencies and present formal presentations of their research in the final regional NGOs share their most pressing research needs with weeks. These activities expose students to a wide spectrum students. A recent alumnus, Dennis Buckingham, developed of current research in environmental studies. They also make this event because he found that students who work with or- the thesis experience, which at times can be very solitary, a ganizations feel a motivational boost by having a tangible more communal enterprise. audience, real-world consequences, and invested mentors be- yond academia. In the past few years, many students have collaborated with partner organizations, including Teaching across disciplines: modeling Sustainability in Prisons Project (Weber et al. 2015), Center effective collaboration for Natural Lands Management (Husby et al. 2015), Joint Base Lewis McCord (Buckingham et al. 2016), Cascadia Perhaps the most important thing for a faculty team to remem- Research Collective (Beach 2016), Washington Department ber, individually and collectively, is that we are modeling— of Natural Resources (Ferguson 2015), and Taylor Shellfish for better or for worse—interdisciplinary collaboration. Here (Lamb 2015). are some things we have learned from the published literature Another strategy is to develop an interdisciplinary frame- and by being reflexive about our socialization as colleagues work in the literature review. Students identify two or more and humans. disciplinary audiences that will be interested in the outcome of their research. Krock (2016) examined how sowing time and Planning and meeting commitments site quality affect the success of 21 different species used for prairie restoration. While writing the literature review, she Team teaching requires commitment at each stage, from discovered that her study addressed practical questions about planning curriculum to evaluating students. Evergreen’s plant germination and survival (posed by restoration ecolo- model requires that faculty prepare for and attend each gists) and theoretical questions about the relative importance other’s lectures, workshops, and labs. Faculty presence al- of priority effects and environmental conditions (posed by lows for dialog among faculty members that would not be theoretical community ecologists). By addressing both audi- possible if only one faculty came to each session. ences, her narrow research question cuts across disparate sub- Moreover, it underscores the reality that interdisciplinary disciplines within ecology. Abdulghani (2014) researched work can only succeed with the sustained participation of shell dissolution in response to ocean acidification. When people from diverse backgrounds. she found that this shell dissolution added base to seawa- Two issues are worth special attention in the planning pro- ter—potentially combatting localized ocean acidification— cess. One is the representation of various disciplines. For fac- she wanted to know why oyster shells are sent to landfills ulty used to teaching on their own and having control over the rather than placed back into seawater. She compared policies syllabus, tensions can arise in collective decisions about how on the east coast (where shells are currently redeposited) and much time to devote to each discipline. Focusing on the learn- west coast (where they are not) and proposed multiple reasons ing objectives rather than the push and pull of disciplines or for these differences in policy. egos can sometimes ease those tensions. Another issue is A final strategy is to foster a strong community of students workload. The planning process should include explicit dis- conducting research in different disciplines. Graduate educa- cussions about who will be responsible for lectures on which tion is often solitary or cloistered by discipline. We minimize days, who will lead seminars about which books, who will these elements through deliberate curricular structures. In the grade which assignments. At the end of the term, students will require an evaluation of their work. In some instances, one faculty member may grade all assignments for a given group of students. In other cases, faculty members may divide the As a practical tip, we have found that general search engines (e.g., Google grading responsibilities by assignment. In either case, faculty Scholar) have helped identify the relevant audiences by searching for publica- tions across many disciplines.) must communicate with each other about the rubrics for J Environ Stud Sci (2018) 8:343–350 349 assigning certain grades, the thoroughness with which they planning meeting include a check-in about specific ways in provide feedback to students, and their own definitions of which we are challenging or reifying traditional power differ- what constitutes excellent, competent, and deficient work. entials in the classroom. For example, faculty teams might Commitment to consistency is crucial. consider which member initiates discussions in the classroom about gender or racial inequities—who speaks about inequity Navigating through interpersonal tensions and social often matters as much as what is spoken—to avoid mindlessly inequities reenacting historical roles. In addition, faculty teams should have explicit discussions When we enter a team-teaching setting, compromises and about power differentials across both disciplines and episte- adjustments are inevitable. Emphasis on equity is important mological approaches. In a traditional academic setting, because, in our experience, course planning and classroom course offerings created around distinct disciplinary ap- teaching can become stressful or unbalanced even when fac- proaches typically offer the solitary faculty member the power ulty have explicit agreements about commitments to shared and privilege of teaching material that is taken for granted as workload. Students are quick to observe interpersonal ten- valid by students in the program. In team-taught programs, sions among faculty, which can erode the learning community. that power is negotiated with teaching partners in complex Moreover, team dynamics may reinforce power differentials ways. On the one hand, natural sciences and economics tend by gender, seniority, race, personality traits, and employment to dominate scholarly contributions to environmental status (e.g., adjunct vs. tenure-track vs. tenured). Teaching policymaking. Many students—and faculty—view them as teams are, after all, comprised of human beings, and we do more epistemologically sound or methodologically rigorous, not live in a vacuum. We embody certain identities and the reflecting the common parlance of “hard” and “soft” sciences privileges associated with them, and these are always relative (Lele and Norgaard 2005). Such biases can be easily reified in to those of our teaching partners. We carry these identities curricular design and classroom teaching, unless they are rec- with us and they influence every aspect of our pedagogy: ognized and addressed. On the other hand, post-positivist hu- planning syllabus content, selecting case studies, developing manities or social sciences often adopt a critical stance toward assignments, evaluating student work, lecturing in the class- the natural sciences and economics. Because this post- room, or responding to student questions. positivist work often problematizes the authority and sup- In our experience, dominant personalities can potentially set posed objectivity of the natural sciences and economics, col- the tone and agenda for the curriculum, with the other faculty leagues in these disciplines can feel unfairly scrutinized or providing their pieces to complete the jig-saw puzzle. Many undermined in a team-teaching environment. As with social factors—seniority, disciplinary identity, gender, race—can con- inequities, the best strategy is to discuss these tensions among the faculty team and make deliberate decisions, as a team, tribute to dominance in this process. In parenting, when there is an emphasis on presenting a united front for the children, one of about how to address them—and make them visible—to stu- the parents often sets the tone for the parenting and the other dents in the curriculum and classroom teaching. often compromises (Bollinger 2015). Teaching in teams is sim- Faculty members, above all, should cultivate a stance of ilar. When two or more people come together to teach, the public valuation of our colleagues and their disciplines corollary of presenting a united front is offering a coherent when we discuss interdisciplinary connections. Our educa- curriculum and consistent standards across the academic inter- tion in traditional disciplines brings a host of assumptions, ests and pedagogical practices of the teaching partners. A pro- biases, and modes of analysis that are communicated to cess of negotiation and compromise ensues. When power im- students. Everything from the broad framing of lectures to balances exist, one faculty’s agenda can dominate course de- the specific nuances of language conveys to students how sign and pedagogy without deliberate scrutiny of the process much we value our own discipline. As a countervailing force, and outcome. Without deliberate attention to such dynamics, we recommend contemplating: Do we genuinely entertain a curriculum planning and classroom teaching can veer away different disciplinary perspective than one we have been from a collaborative, democratic process. conditioned to believe is most important? Do we validate Such inequities, to be addressed, must be rendered visible. our colleagues’ disciplines by highlighting the value of They cannot be swept under the rug as uncomfortable or ir- their contributions? Do we present our approach as one relevant. Team-teaching partners must develop a sense of in- of many valid approaches? If meaningful interdisciplinar- terpersonal dynamics that may arise across differences, such ity is a conversation across disciplines (Toadvine 2011), as mansplaining in the context of gender (Solnit 2015), or then it is important that the discourse occur among part- racial micro-aggressions in the context of race (Gutiérrez y ners who consider and treat each other as equals. We Muhs et al. 2012). Subtle practices of othering and invalida- cannot expect our students to be supportive and respectful tion are antithetical to the pursuit of collaborative and inter- collaborators across disciplines if we do not exemplify disciplinary teaching goals. We recommend that each weekly this spirit in our own interactions. 350 J Environ Stud Sci (2018) 8:343–350 Buckingham DA, Linders M, Landa C, Mullen L, LeRoy CJ (2016) Conclusion Oviposition preference of endangered Taylor’s checkerspot butter- flies (Euphydryas editha taylori) using native and non-native hosts. The MES program adapted Evergreen’s model of undergrad- NW Science 90: forthcoming uate education to create a robust model for graduate environ- Ferguson P (2015) Predicting historical logging camp locations in the capitol state Forest, Washington. Thesis, TESC mental studies. This approach emphasizes interdisciplinary Garlesky J (2015) Freeing the Deschutes: assessing the implications of team teaching, learning communities, and robust opportuni- sediment transport in dam removal: a case study of the 5th Avenue ties for independent student research and professional devel- Dam, Olympia, Washington. Thesis, TESC opment. While we have drawn on our institutional roots for Gutiérrez y Muhs G, Neimann YF, González CC, Harris AP (2012) key structures and practices, we continue to evolve in re- Presumed incompetent: the intersections of race and class for wom- en in academia. 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Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences – Springer Journals
Published: Jan 30, 2018
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