SEED projects 2017 – Writing, Writing Everywhere
Interdisciplinary teaching case-study on the global clothing industry
Dr Niki Harré, Andrea Mead, Prof Penny Brothers, Dr Manuel Vallee, and Joe Fagan (Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Science)
Sustainability often requires interdisciplinarity; this project details how that can be achieved in written assignments.
The aim of the project was to teach two iterations of an interdisciplinary teaching unit on the global clothing industry. In Semester One (March-June) 2017, this involved Stage One Psychology (Individual, Social and Applied Psychology) and Stage Two Sociology students (Environmental Sociology) and in Semester Two it involved Stage One Psychology and Stage Two Chemistry students (Introduction to Green Chemistry). Each class watched a documentary about the clothing industry, called “The True Cost”, and received lectures in their home course.
Students from one course then presented to students from the other course on what their discipline could contribute to understanding and improving the industry. They were required to do a written assignment in their home course. Chemistry students wrote a reflection on what they had learnt, a type of writing that science students do not usually experience. Sociology students wrote about the meanings and social and environmental impact of an item of clothing they own; and Psychology students wrote a research report on data gathered from a pre-test survey conducted with the participating courses. We also aimed to make a video that described the project, and conduct an evaluation with the help of graduate students in Psychology.
The evaluation found that students’ knowledge of the social and environmental impacts of the clothing industry increased considerably after the teaching unit, and that they intended to consider these impacts in future clothing purchases. Informal conversations with students also indicated that some were deeply affected by the teaching, particularly the impact of clothing manufacture on workers. Students commented favourably on the interactions with peers in other courses. It was also clear they had learnt a lot through applying their knowledge to a real world issue and needing to teach students who were unfamiliar with the language and concepts of their discipline.
The experience was refreshing and inspiring for the team, who enjoyed working with each other and connecting or reconnecting with different disciplines.