Deakin University

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Inspiration from the classroom: a mixed method case study of interdisciplinary sustainability learning in higher education

journal contribution
posted on 2017-07-24, 00:00 authored by Sue NoySue Noy, Rebecca Patrick, Teresa CapetolaTeresa Capetola, Janine Mc BurnieJanine Mc Burnie
Within higher education there is widespread support for developing students’ interdisciplinary skills. Despite this, evidence for, and practice of, cross-faculty interdisciplinary sustainability learning remains in its infancy. Recent articles have shown that Australia is no exception. This article provides a case study of interdisciplinary learning and teaching within a cross-faculty Education for Sustainability (EfS) undergraduate subject involving science, arts, business, and health students at an Australian university. A description of the subject and its theoretical context provides a platform for presenting the findings of a mixed method enquiry into how pedagogy supports interdisciplinary sustainability learning. The sequential explanatory research design involved a post-subject quantitative survey analysed using SPSS, augmented by qualitative student journal data (n = 67) using phenomenological analysis within NVivo. The study found that students, regardless of discipline background, valued the processes and pedagogy used to promote interdisciplinary collaboration and awareness. The experience left students feeling more skilled and confident of their ability to contribute to future interdisciplinary sustainability collaboration. This case study, replete with a subject description, theoretical context for an innovative pedagogical approach and study results, provides higher education professionals with a template for deliberative curriculum and pedagogy that promote interdisciplinary knowledge, skills and confidence that may contribute to transformative learning that supports EfS goals. The article presents a strong case for future EfS curriculum frameworks and strategic education policy to include deliberative interdisciplinary pedagogy. It also challenges higher education institutions to create flexible systems that facilitate cross-faculty interdisciplinary learning that is necessary for preparing students for the future.



Australian journal of environmental education






97 - 118


Cambridge University Press


Cambridge, Eng.





Publication classification

C Journal article; C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2017, The Authors