Real‐world learning opportunities in sustainability: from classroom into the real world

Katja Brundiers (School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA and Decision Center for a Desert City, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA)
Arnim Wiek (School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA)
Charles L. Redman (School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Publication date: 21 September 2010

Abstract

Purpose

Academic sustainability programs aim to develop key competencies in sustainability, including problem‐solving skills and the ability to collaborate successfully with experts and stakeholders. These key competencies may be most fully developed in new teaching and learning situations. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the kind of, and extent to which, these key competencies can be acquired in real‐world learning opportunities.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper summarizes key competencies in sustainability, identifies criteria for real‐world learning opportunities in sustainability programs, and draws on dominant real‐world learning models including project‐ and problem‐based learning, service learning, and internships in communities, businesses, and governments. These components are integrated into a framework to design real‐world learning opportunities.

Findings

A “functional and progressive” model of real‐world learning opportunities seems most conducive to introduce students (as well as faculty and community partners) to collaborative research between academic researchers and practitioners. The stepwise process combined with additional principles allows building competencies such as problem solving, linking knowledge to action, and collaborative work, while applying concepts and methods from the field of sustainability.

Practical implications

The paper offers examples of real‐world learning opportunities at the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University, discusses general challenges of implementation and organizational learning, and draws attention to critical success factors such as collaborative design, coordination, and integration in general introductory courses for undergraduate students.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to sustainability education by clarifying how real‐world learning opportunities contribute to the acquisition of key competencies in sustainability. It proposes a functional and progressive model to be integrated into the (undergraduate) curriculum and suggests strategies for its implementation.

Keywords

Citation

Brundiers, K., Wiek, A. and Redman, C. (2010), "Real‐world learning opportunities in sustainability: from classroom into the real world", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 308-324. https://doi.org/10.1108/14676371011077540

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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