Transdisciplinary learning: Transformative collaborations between students, industry, academia and communities
An example of complex problem solving undertaken through university-industry partnerships to create societal value and impact
|Background and objectives of the case
An analogy: Imagine you are invited to a dinner party, but instead of a stuffy sit-down affair, your host asks you to bring your favourite ingredient, and together you prepare a delicious feast of unique and distinct flavours.
UTS’s transdisciplinary initiatives are changing the shape of higher education and forging innovative partnerships by bringing together diverse professional fields.
With a focus on practice-based and problem-focused learning, UTS educational programs combine the strengths of multiple disciplines, industries, public sector organisations, and the community to turn real-world problems into rewarding opportunities for education and also “learning for a lifetime”.
In place of the limitations of artificial disciplinary boundaries, transdisciplinary learning practices create synergistic and innovative approaches to grappling with complex applied challenges. Students, researchers, practitioners, community members and other stakeholders combine their knowledge, tools, techniques, methods, theories, concepts, as well as cultural and personal perspectives. By understanding problems holistically, the solutions that emerge are bold, innovative, and creative, as well as mutually beneficial. We view this as the future of education: good to work with, and good to think with — problem solving for (and with) industry and society.
The Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation is re-imagining how education, research, and professional practice can work together to navigate today’s complex problems, and create commercially attractive and socially responsible futures. We also practice what we preach: for example, staff professional development to enact these models in our own teaching; educational programs to provide experiential learning around problem solving within a rapidly-changing environment involving students from across different disciplines and cultural backgrounds; as well as policy development and research on today’s pressing “wicked problems” with industry and government.
Primary objectives of this next practice concept of transdisciplinary learning, include:
- To promote a shift in industry-university engagement from producing “knowledge for society” to co-generating “knowledge with society”;
- To build a resilient ecosystem for co-learning;
- To create and sustain future-oriented degree programs with collaboration between industry, government, and community at the centre, geared to prepare our graduates for the complex challenges of a networked world;
- To create an agile and responsive industry-university lab environment for generating and testing new experimental models;
- To enable industry – by collaborating with our students and academics – to see their problems from a fresh perspective, often through different and revealing lenses, and to notice opportunities and spot challenges that may have otherwise been overlooked;
- To prepare students to lead innovation in a rapidly-changing and challenging world; and
- To graduate students who are ‘complexity-fluent’, systems thinkers, creative problem-posers and -solvers, and imaginative, ethical citizens.