DOI: 10.12924/cis2017.05010052 |Publication Date: 27 March 2017
Fostering the Next Generation of Sustainability Professionals – Assessing Field-based Courses in a Sustainability Science Graduate Program
Abstract: A growing number of educational programs in sustainability science has paralleled the rise of the field itself. The educational approach of these programs follows the problem-driven, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary nature of the field itself. However, its effectiveness has yet to be systematically evaluated. Similarly, while ad-hoc evaluation schemes have attempted to monitor the quality of the educational programs, there is no standard method that accounts for the particularities of sustainability science programs. This study thus addresses the need for an assessment of the problem-driven approach of educational programs in sustainability science. We have conducted student self-assessments of field courses in the Graduate Program in Sustainability Science (GPSS-GLI) at The University of Tokyo, which positions its field courses at the center of its curriculum. The self-assessments were based on five key competencies identified as particularly important for sustainability professionals. Workshops and questionnaires engaged students in a reflection of the six field courses and of their own personal development through the activities offered. Our questionnaire results indicate that the majority of participants were satisfied with how the courses furthered their personal development. While some participants expressed frustration at being unable to sufficiently address the respective field's sustainability challenges due to time constraints, students generally recognized the five key competencies as important for addressing sustainability issues after participating in the courses. Moreover, participants attributed much of their learning to their active engagement in planned field research activities, rather than to passive learning. Variations in results across different course units provide material for further analysis and development of the curriculum. This study is an initial attempt at assessment, with room for ongoing improvement and further research to address additional requirements for fostering the next generation of sustainability professionals.
Keywords: curriculum development; fieldwork evaluation; higher education; competencies; sustainability professional; sustainability science