Teaching sustainability is both exciting and challenging because of the interdisciplinary nature of the problems at stake. When teaching these issues, instructors are often working outside their own areas of expertise. How do you bring new content knowledge into the classroom without overburdening yourself? Ways to build interdisciplinary classrooms include:
- Guest speakers extend the boundaries of the classroom, helping students to see the course as a part of a larger network of ideas and conversations.
- The expert’s visit presents an external motivation for students to engage with readings and assignments.
- Careful planning can help to ensure that guest contributions will enhance student learning.
- Let guests know ahead of time the topic of the course and how their visits fit with the themes of the class.
- Assign students to submit questions in the expert’s area of interest.
- Avoid presentations; invite the expert to class to participate in an interview instead.
- Consider inviting guests with opposing views.
- Take advantage of students’ diverse disciplinary and experiential knowledge.
- The CFT has a web module on cooperative learning that can help instructors shift from a lecture format to a more collaborative classroom format.
- See also the new book, Cooperative Learning in Higher Education: Across the Disciplines (2010), edited by Barbara Millis and published by the National Teaching and Learning Forum.