Problem-based learning at the core

A German University’s Sustainability Science masters program  requires students to to identify and structure complex, real-world sustainability problems and to work effectively with actors outside the world of academia. The course is entirely based on a Problem-based Learning approach which is often challenging to implement within traditional institutions.

LeuphanaAs part of Leuphana University’s MSc. in Sustainability Science, all our students must undertake a transdisciplinary project. This will enable them to identify and structure complex, real-world sustainability problems and to work effectively with actors outside the world of academia. The primary focus of the course is on looking at ways in which city administrations can contribute to sustainable community and city development.

This fits comfortably into the rest of the Sustainability Science course, which sees sustainability as “one of the major social challenges of the twenty-first century” and looks at social-ecological systems, the problems within them and the possible solutions. We provide the theoretical, methodological, organizational and communicative skills that students need to complete their projects and become fundamental agents in initiating sustainable change.

The problem-based learning (PBL) course is taught in two fixed meetings – usually one plenary session and one for group work and independent group work. So far, the students have registered different degrees of self-evaluation of success in the course, but we endeavour to find a balance between prescribed learning and individual freedom, and to ensure students have time and method for reflecting on the learning process.  The course would benefit from more complementary courses and increased commitment on the part of external partners. PBL courses often suffer from the view that project oriented courses do not need the same intensity of supervision as other course types when in fact it requires similar levels of supervision.

Filed in: Issue-centered learning, Open access between academia and practice
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