October 8, 2015 – Wicked Problems and Integrative Learning

montreal-east-refineriesThe meeting of October 8 examined attempts by Dawson faculty to put wicked problems at the centre of course work, and also the obstacles to designing truly interdisciplinary and integrative learning experiences.  Carl Saucier-Bouffard and Geoffrey Pearce talked about a Reflections & Environmental Studies field trip to the oil refinery district in Montreal-Est.  Participating on this trip were students from Carl’s Humanities: World Views class, Geoff’s Advanced Topics in Environmental Studies; they were also joined by Jeff Barnes and Michael Duckett who pitched in on the teaching side of the trip.  The general objective was to give students an immediate experience of the local environmental and social impacts on Montreal-Est of oil refinery development.  In our meeting, Carl and Geoff discussed the huge advantages of site visits for observation, discussion and reflective writing, but also noted the logistical challenges in taking a group of students off campus.  The meeting then shifted to a video introduction to paired learning communities at Cascadia College, a Washington community college, where a Humanities prof and an Environmental Science prof teamed up to teach a paired-course learning community course.  The Humanities and Enviro Science courses are enrolled with the same cohort and scheduled back-t0-back, giving the course a 3-hour block in which to organize learning activities both on and off campus.  A wide-ranging conversation ensued, with commentary on how to create opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching; the Reflections model, and advantages and limitations thereof; possible themes and discipline combinations for paired courses;  and other colleges employing the learning communities model.

Participants: Carl Saucier-Bouffard, Geoffrey Pearce, Michael Duckett, Sarah Ring, Caroline Haddad, Valerie Simmons, Chris Adam, Rob Cassidy, Ian MacKenzie