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An experience-based learning framework: Activities for the initial development of sustainability competencies

Guido Caniglia (School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA)
Beatrice John (Institute for Ethics and Transdisciplinary Sustainability Research, Leuphana Universtiy Lueneburg, Germany)
Martin Kohler (Department of Urban Design and Community Planning, Hafen City University, Hamburg, Germany)
Leonie Bellina (Institute for Ethics and Transdisciplinary Sustainability Research, Leuphana Universtiy Lueneburg, Germany)
Arnim Wiek (School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA)
Christopher Rojas (School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA)
Manfred D. Laubichler (School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA and Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA and Konrad Lorenz Institut, Klosterneuburg, Austria)
Daniel Lang (Institute for Ethics and Transdisciplinary Sustainability Research, Leuphana Universtiy Lueneburg, Germany)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 7 November 2016

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to present an experience-based learning framework that provides a bottom-up, student-centered entrance point for the development of systems thinking, normative and collaborative competencies in sustainability.

Design/methodology/approach

The framework combines mental mapping with exploratory walking. It interweaves mapping and walking activities with methodological and theoretical inputs as well as with reflections and discussions. The framework aligns experiential activities, i.e. mental mapping and walking, with learning objectives, i.e. novice-level sustainability competencies. The authors applied the framework for student activities in Phoenix/Tempe and Hamburg/Lüneburg as part of The Global Classroom, a project between Arizona State University in the USA and Leuphana University of Lüneburg in Germany.

Findings

The application of the experience-based learning framework demonstrates how students started developing systems thinking (e.g. understanding urban systems as functional entities and across different domains), normative (e.g. using different sustainability principles) and collaborative (e.g. learning across disciplinary, social and cultural differences) competencies in sustainability.

Originality/value

The experience-based learning framework contributes to the development of curricular activities for the initial development of sustainability competencies in introductory-level courses. It enables students from different disciplinary, social and cultural backgrounds, e.g. in international education, to collaboratively start developing such competencies. The framework can be adapted to different educational contexts.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Stiftung Mercator for funding the whole Global Classroom project. The authors would like to warmly thank Sacha Kagan for contributing to the first elaboration of the experience-based learning framework; Sean Cohmer and Michael Bernstein, whose help was essential in its first implementation; and Paolo Sacchetti for his early input on the mental mapping exercises. Finally, the authors would like to thank all the students and instructors who have contributed to the successful implementation of the framework in the Global Classroom, and the students who drew the mental maps for giving us permission to use their work in this article.

Citation

Caniglia, G., John, B., Kohler, M., Bellina, L., Wiek, A., Rojas, C., Laubichler, M.D. and Lang, D. (2016), "An experience-based learning framework: Activities for the initial development of sustainability competencies", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 17 No. 6, pp. 827-852. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-04-2015-0065

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited