How to design a successful international integrative research and education program

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Abstract

International integrative research and education programs that address societal challenges such as flood risk can provide excellent out-of-class learning experiences for students by encouraging them to go beyond their own disciplines and tackle problems collaboratively with other students from various backgrounds. In recognition of the increasing importance of multidisciplinary approaches in research projects, it is worthwhile to discuss how to effectively design such integrative research and education programs to ensure successful learning outcomes for participating students. The NSF PIRE Coastal Flood Risk Reduction Program is an international place- and problem-based research education program in which students conduct case study research across the upper Texas coast in the United States and the North Sea coast in the Netherlands. Four yearly student research trips to the Netherlands were conducted from 2016 to 2019. Each year, multiple case studies (place-based) are designed for each country, covering both surge-based and precipitation-driven flood problems (problem-based). A total of 58 graduate and undergraduate students from various disciplines, including engineering, planning, economics, hydrology, biology, architecture, geography, communications, and computational hydraulics, participated. A 2-week long research trip in the Netherlands is designed to embrace the concepts of “convergence” to effectively provide students with transformative and authentic-learning experiences. This chapter describes how to design an international integrative research and education program by integrating and converging knowledge, data, and experiences across disciplines—from development to implementation. Then, it discusses reflections and lessons learned from the first 4 years (out of 7) of the program. This chapter will offer guidance to faculty, researchers, and program coordinators in higher education who desire to create a similar program.