Exploring Transdisciplinary Approaches To STEM Teaching and Learning

Christopher Jensen
Acting Chair & Associate Professor
Pratt institute Department of Math & Science

To meet the challenges of the 21st Century, students will have to operate within transdisciplinary contexts. The National Academies has recognized the need to foster transdisciplinary learning that empowers students to integrate STEM with the humanities, social sciences, and design disciplines. We need scalable transdisciplinary teaching paradigms and practices that integrate STEM across the curriculum. Such teaching practices are required to prepare students to participate in emerging industries, to address vexing social problems, and to build sustainable societies.

As educational researchers and practitioners at Pratt Institute, a higher education institution primarily focused on art, design, and architecture, we are interested in the ways of knowing students practice as they complete both their general education and major courses of study. These diverse practices reflect different modes of knowledge generation (i.e. epistemologies) native to each discipline. For our students, engaging and employing STEM knowledge can be crucial to their creative goals, requiring that they integrate STEM ways of knowing with the epistemic practices they develop as artists and designers. To better understand how to empower students to integrate these different practices within transdisciplinary contexts, our project builds on a series of transdisciplinary epistemic practices (TEPs) previously developed to bridge the epistemologies of STEM and art in informal learning settings.

Our research, slated to begin during the Fall of 2022, will attempt to answer these questions:

1) How can TEPs provide a conceptual framework for faculty development in a higher education art and design context?

2) How can faculty apply this conceptual framework to the design and delivery of transdisciplinary STEM learning opportunities for all students?

We will answer these questions through a year-long faculty learning community (FLC), composed of faculty who are already integrating STEM concepts across a diversity of disciplines, that will apply the TEP conceptual framework to teaching in higher education.

FLC participants will develop transdisciplinary teaching practices and analyze them through the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). Each of our participants will conduct research that explores their particular approach to STEM integration in a transdisciplinary course. To do this, they will use the TEPs to frame their research design and SoTL research to guide their methodological approach. In addition, the FLC participants as a whole will use the TEPs developed in informal learning contexts to develop a TEP framework for higher education. The PI’s will study the FLC approach to SoTL transdisciplinary research, further contributing to evidence-based SoTL research on professional development and its relationship to changes in teaching.

Art, design, and architecture students will be major contributors to the material and ideological culture of the future. Pratt students strive to create a more sustainable economy and to address social inequity, work that can only be accomplished by integrating STEM understanding into their creative processes. By demonstrating how a higher education transdisciplinary epistemic practices framework can be applied to a Pratt education, the project will provide a model for other art and design schools to integrate STEM ways of knowing into their art, design and architecture curriculum.


Heather Lewis, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY; Mark Rosin, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY