arjen e.j. wals

[email protected] Interdisciplinarity and transboundary thinking as a pre-requisite for learning our way out of unsustainability Arjen E.J. Wals

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Interdisciplinarity and transboundary thinking as a pre-requisite for learning our way out of unsustainability. Arjen E.J. Wals. Today. Unsustainability & urgency Learning our way out? Redesigning education, learning & research. 60.000/5sec. 2.000.000/5min. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


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Interdisciplinarity and transboundary thinking as a pre-requisite for learning our way out

of unsustainabilityArjen E.J. Wals

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1.Unsustainability & urgency

2.Learning our way out?

3.Redesigning education, learning & research

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60.000/5sec 2.000.000/5min

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“The conventional wisdom holds that all education is good, and the more of it one has, the better.… The truth is that without significant precautions, [it] can equip people merely to be more effective vandals of the Earth” (D. Orr).

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Who knows? Who cares? Deepwater horizon Nuclear radiation in Japan Increased infertility in men Calcium supplements for women Runaway (?) climate change Organic – sustainable – for all? Paper or plastic? …. ‘ W

e are drowning in

information while starving for

wisdom’ E.O. W

ilson, 1998, p. 300)

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Complexity Uncertainty and indeterminacy Contestation and controversy – extinction

of ‘truth’ Shallowness and hyper-connectivity –

erosion of meaning Emergence - reflexivity

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What’s it made of?

Where does each component come from?

How does it affect our lifes?

Is there a future for cell phones?

How does it affect the lifes of others?

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[email protected] Faist Emmenegger, et al, “Life Cycle Assessment of

the Mobile Communication System UMTS: Towards Eco-Efficient Systems,” International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 11, 4, (2006): 265 – 276.

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Chromium: Production and Consumption emissions in Sweden

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Lessons learned & competencies developed

Local and global issues are connected Information is everywhere, how to choose? Sustainability is multi-dimensional:

ecological, economic, ethics, environment, etc.

Becoming critical of consumption & consumerism

Alternatives are possible! Interviewing, presenting, reporting, listening,

googeling, critiquing…

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An Education for Sustainable Development Lens Integrative – not only the ecological and

the environmental, not only the present, not only the local, not only the human world

Critical - questioning continuous economic growth and consumerism and associated lifestyles

Transformative – exploration of alternative lifestyles (e.g. ‘voluntary simplicity’), values and systems that break from existing ones that are inherently unsustainable

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Blinding insight - intermezzo1. If you have done it before – don’t say a thing!

2. In the short movie you will see a small group of boys and girls wearing black or white shirts that are playing with two balls.

3. Your goal is to count how many times the ball is passed by those wearing white shirts. It’s that simple.

4. Remember, count just the passes of the ball by those wearing white shirts!

5. Write down the number of passes.

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Sustainability Competence (1)

Transformative learning









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• Competence to think in a forward-looking manner & to deal with uncertainty

• Competence to work in an interdisciplinary manner

• Competence to achieve open-minded perception, transcultural understanding and cooperation

• Participatory competence

• Ability to feel empathy, sympathy and solidarity

• Competence to motivate oneself and others

• Competence to reflect in a distanced manner on individual and cultural concepts

• Sources: de Haan (2006); Michelsen and Adomssent (2007)

Sustainability competence (2)

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3rd generation university Scientia Techne Praxis Focus Learning for

knowing Learning for doing

Learning for being

Knowledge produced

Propositional Practical Experiential


Subject disciplines Crafts/Skills Issues/Competences

Teacher’s role Expert Master Facilitator

Teaching strategies

Lectures on theory Instruction Demonstrations

Real-world Projects

Research style Basic (Experimental)

Applied (Developmental)

Action (Participative)

Research goals Abstract-universal knowledge

Workplace Solutions

Contextual knowledge / Action for change

Basic philosophy

Positivism Utilitarianism Constructivism

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Thank you!