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Our program has been designed specifically to assist postgraduate students facing the special challenges of working in the inherently transdisciplinary field of sustainable futures. These challenges include the need for project specific methodological frameworks and the need to learn skills in areas beyond their current expertise. The program aims to build a sense of community between our students so they can learn from one another.
Some of the main elements of our postgraduate program include:
We held our first postgraduate retreat in 2002 to encourage a stronger bond between individual students working in diverse fields. Since then, the annual residential retreats have become a focal point of our program. The retreats are typically held outside of Sydney and run for two days, in order to avoid distractions. They involve all students and supervisors, and focus on a particular research theme. Some of these themes include:
- 'Research in the information age: Transdisciplinarity and quality' where we explored the difficult question of how to assess the quality of transdisciplinary research; and
- 'From Research to Reality' where we explored the journey from developing, using and defending methodological frameworks in transdisciplinary postgraduate research, to creating and influencing change in the 'real world'.
The retreats are an opportunity to get to know fellow students and their research, and a chance to take an intellectual leap, collectively and individually.
Roundtables are an ongoing series of weekly gatherings providing a regular space in which staff and students come together to present ideas and discuss them with a view to building a strong learning community. At Roundtables, staff and students can practice presenting their conference papers, invite guest speakers to give an informal talk, or set up discussions on topical issues.
In addition to Roundtables, we run special research training workshops, using internal and external experts. These workshops cover topics such as epistemology and theoretical frameworks, validity frameworks in the social sciences, research writing, and focusing on specific methodologies such as Actor Network Theory. Topics for special workshops are usually identified by the students through the annual retreat and regular postgraduate meetings.
We encourage our students to form small Groups for Accountability and Support (GAS groups) with their peers. The students have mostly decided the size and constitution of GAS groups, based on congruent research areas, personalities and stages in the research process. Each group then articulates the structure and focus of their activities. They also consider how to build reflection into their practice, how their meetings will be facilitated and when to review their outcomes and processes.