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SITRAP – Centre for Integrated and Transdisciplinary Education in Planning

Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)

Centre

The vision set out for the Centre is to educate a new generation of professionals to take a leading role in planning and implementation of the Green Shift. This will be achieved through the development and implementation of trans-disciplinary learning methods, which integrate academic thinking with professional methodologies and allow students as future professionals to break down sectoral barriers and act beyond disciplines.


Strengths and weaknesses

SITRAP is led by the Department of Landscape Architecture and Spatial Planning at NMBU and addresses an area of huge societal importance, namely the Green Shift. The leaders have assembled a wide-ranging coalition including NIBIO, Centre for the Study of Professions at HiOA, Finance Norway, the Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture, the magazine KOTE, the Oslo Regional Alliance and the Centre for Continuing Education at NMBU. All these organisations could potentially play important roles in supporting SITRAP’s aims. However, the nature of the involvement of these various bodies has not been fully established. Greater clarity is needed about which bodies are formal partners and which are simply “interested parties”. There appeared to be some competing agendas within these potential partners and differing understandings of what SITRAP’s key purposes are.

There is strong support for SITRAP at senior levels within the management of NMBU. It was clear to the expert panel that there was significant potential for SITRAP, if successful in its SFU application, to have an impact across the institution beyond the lead department, in terms of raising the profile of excellent education. There was a definite will to make this happen.

The expert panel was pleased to learn of the consultation with students before drafting the proposal and that a small number of students had been involved in developing the proposal. 

The value of breaking down sectoral and disciplinary barriers was clearly demonstrated by the proposal leaders. However further work is necessary to create a common understanding within the department and amongst the partners of the differences between inter-disciplinary, cross-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary approaches. The expert panel was surprised to find low levels of awareness across the department of the fundamental ideas within the proposal and this gave serious concerns about the likelihood of eventual success.

The proposed arena for knowledge and experience sharing that is at the heart of Strategy 2 of the proposal forms a sound basis from which to start dissemination. Beyond this, there is a need for further work to ensure that dissemination actually achieves more than simply knowledge of what SITRAP is doing.

The expert panel found the suggested approach to evaluation to be quite limited in both its scope and its depth, and recommends that further work is needed to develop this into something that can make a real difference to the project.

Overall, although this proposal has significant potential, in the end it disappointed. The ideas at the heart of the proposal have considerable merit, but there is a need for further development work to, in particular, clarify the roles of different partners and secure much wider ownership of the proposed activities.

Concept:

The vision of the SITRAP is to educate a new generation of professionals to take a leading role in planning and implementation of the ‘Green Shift’. The centre’s main goal is to conceive, implement and develop trans-disciplinary learning methods, which integrate academic thinking with professional methodologies and allow students and future professionals to break down sectorial barriers and act beyond disciplines. SITRAP will be a catalyst for developing and testing innovative learning and teaching methods through the cooperation of educators, researchers and external partners. The centre will build on the rich variety of existing study programs at NMBU and encourage the transdisciplinary sharing of content, methods and competences.


Strengths and weaknesses:

There is rigorous documentation of existing excellence in the educational provision. There seems to be recognition at national level for excellence in planning education. The proposal presents a consortium with strong partners that complement each other, including a good multidisciplinary mix of staff.

The application describes solid pedagogical approaches including active learning through studio based design tasks and problem based teaching. There is evidence of innovation in virtual reality. The NMBU’s students feel included in the academic community and have more access to professors than in other universities in Norway, which is an excellent foundation for student engagement. The application strongly emphasize links between research and teaching and there are elements with students as co-creators. The expert panel praises the collaboration with the learning centre. More explicit documentation on how R&D permeates student learning could be included. Outcome factors are solid including good employment outcomes and relevance for students and employers.

The goals, plan of work and structure for the centre are clear overall. The governance structures are thought through. The development of transdisciplinary learning methods in planning with a view to implementing the ’Green Shift’ responds to climate change in particular and the case for its importance is well articulated. The innovation seems to be the focus on the Green Shift and innovation in teaching and learning methods could have been made more explicit as could the engagement of the students in the centre.

Impact and dissemination have been considered, though evaluation of the impact of the project as a whole is less clear. Additionality and sustainability are addressed in a limited way. 


Points to consider:

  • How can internal, national and international partners be involved? Should international engagement start earlier?
  • How to use developments in research to improve teaching and learning?
  • How can students be engaged in developing the centre?
  • What does the centre want to accomplish that will not happen without an SFU grant (additionality)?

Grade: 5
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