GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 52-1
Presentation Time: 2:30 PM-6:30 PM


BENDER-AWALT, Mitchell1, IVERSON, Ellen1, SZYMANSKI, David2, ERHEMJAMTS, Otgontsetseg3, LENCZEWSKI, Melissa4, MOONEY, Christine5, OCHES, Rick2, RITTER, John6 and WILSON, Rachel7, (1)Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, 1 North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057, (2)Department of Natural & Applied Sciences, Bentley University, 175 Forest St, Waltham, MA 02452, (3)Finance, Bentley University, 175 Forest Street, Waltham, MA 02452, (4)Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, Northern Illinois University, Davis Hall 312, DeKalb, IL 60115, (5)Management, Northern Illinois University, 1425 W. Lincoln Hwy., DeKalb, IL 60115, (6)Geology, Wittenberg University, 200 W Ward St., Springfield, OH 45504, (7)Business and Economics, Wittenberg University, 200 W Ward St., Springfield, MA 45504

A scientifically literate citizenry is essential to addressing wicked problems such as water scarcity and climate change. To achieve this, students need education that transcends disciplinary boundaries and allows them to engage in critical thinking around complex problems. The NSF-funded Business and Science: Integrated Curriculum for Sustainability (BASICS) project seeks to produce transdisciplinary curricular modules that can be used in geoscience, other STEM fields, and business courses to help students develop the skills and knowledge to tackle wicked problems.

To this end, a multidisciplinary cohort of faculty from three institutions created a “common exercise” that introduces students to the transdisciplinary nature of sustainability. The exercise focuses on the multi-faceted nature of nitrogen pollution in the Mississippi River watershed and was taught to students in a variety of disciplines over the 2020-21 academic year. Short surveys were administered before and after the implementation of the common exercise that collected student attitudes and abilities to address complex problems (n=349).

When presented with a sustainability problem, students were asked to identify the importance of each of 21 different disciplines on which to draw expertise to address the challenge. Post-survey data revealed statistically significant increases in students’ perceived importance of seeking expertise from humanities (moderate increase), business (large), social science (moderate-large), science (small), and data (small) to that problem.

Students were also asked to rate their learning gains (1=none to 5=very large) related to items from the Research on the Integrated Science Curriculum (RISC) survey, that allows for comparison of learning gains between interdisciplinary courses. Students reported a range of gains from 3.17 (moderate gain) to 4.02 (large gain). Comparison of gains to published data from all students who completed the RISC in 2016 shows that BASICS student gains exceed those of the comparison group in most categories.

These results suggest that the BASICS common exercise is successful in building student knowledge and skills around sustainability. Future work includes revision of the common exercise and development of a second exercise on circular economy by a new cohort of faculty.

  • Bender-Awalt 2021 BASICS Poster GSA.pdf (1.5 MB)