Place-based education and interdisciplinary experience – Trevor Holmes

Recently I attended a pre-conference workshop in Kamloops, BC run by professors from several different disciplines — geography, fine art, literature, philosophy, and biology — who had been collaborating since last summer on “place-based pedagogy.”TRU trip picture

Informed in large part by a hybrid of environmental education and critical pedagogy, place-based pedagogy has to do with, as our homework reading suggests, “decolonization” and “reinhabiting” of space and place. We experienced first-hand some of the assignments the group had worked on for an interdisciplinary course, assignments and activities that each had used in her or his own course but that now were being blended together anew. We tried an event map and a collaborative photograph project on part of the Thompson Rivers University campus; after lunch, we did a walk around a shopping mall to uncover the palimpsestic layers of use and meaning that were partly submerged and lost, or very apparent but nevertheless hard to see because we’re so accustomed to them.

TRU place picture 2

The workshop ended with examples of student work from a fine art class, in which students were focused on geography, place, biology, and representation. It was a transformative day for me, and I found immediately useful some of the assignment ideas for my own Cultural Studies course (especially when we get to our unit on Un/Natural Spaces). I’ve added my own 5 pictures from our group’s 20 pictures, which were part of a display of about 100 in slideshow format (we had taken them in the morning as a means of “seeing” the landscape and all its meanings; then they were collected and broadcast to us for discussion after lunch). I’d love to know if anyone on our campus thinks of him or herself as a “place-based educator” or involves students in mindful consideration of space across disciplines.TRU place picture 5


The Centre for Teaching Excellence welcomes contributions to its blog. If you are a faculty member, staff member, or student at the University of Waterloo (or beyond!) and would like contribute a posting about some aspect of teaching or learning, please contact Mark Morton or Trevor Holmes.

Published by


As Senior Instructional Developer, Curriculum and Programming, Trevor Holmes plans and delivers workshops and events in support of faculty across the career span. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence, Trevor worked at a variety of universities teaching courses, supporting faculty and teaching assistants through educational development offices, and advising undergraduates. Trevor’s PhD is from York University in English Literature, with a focus on gothic literature, queer theory, and goth identities. A popular workshop facilitator at the national and international levels, Trevor is also interested in questions of identity in teaching and teaching development.

Leave a Reply