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The Initiative for Transformative Sustainability Education (ITSE) at Wageningen University in the Netherlands

Wageningen University Netherlands

Topic(s): Sustainability, Organizational Design
Department:
The Initiative for Transformative Sustainability Education
Project Start Date:
2009/01/01
Funding Source:
University
Partners:
Higher Ed - Public
Type of Institution:
Public
Enrollment:
7409 (Spring 2010)
Highest Degree Offered:
Doctorate
Project Contact Information:
Lisa Schwarzin
Education and Competencies Group
Postbus 8130
Wageningen
6700EW
Netherlands
Email Address:
Lisa.Schwarzin@wul.nl
Abstract

The Initiative for Transformative Sustainability Education (ITSE) at Wageningen University in the Netherlands is composed of a grassroots working group of academics, teachers, and students whom have developed a framework for cross-boundary sustainability education. This framework addresses both theoretical knowledge and practical skills;it also guides students to question their values, attitudes and behaviors. Students develop leadership skills, learn to empower themselves and others, and to facilitate social and collaborative learning among a diversity of stakeholders.

Project Description

The Wageningen University in the Netherlands established the Initiative for Transformative Sustainability Education (ITSE) in 2009. The needs and concerns of environmental education were put forward during several meetings of the University Students Council in spring 2009. As a result of those meetings, the ITSE project was started with the goal of sustainability education through interdisciplinary and multilayered efforts of innovation.  

ITSE aims at (1) developing a shared vision and approach towards transformative sustainability education at Wageningen University; (2) engaging in reflexive practice while designing and implementing the shared approach; (3) engaging in constant collaborative interactions between university staff and students from a diverse range of backgrounds; and (4) promoting continuous deepening of integration across disciplines and dimensions of sustainability education.

 According to Lisa Schwarzin (2011), there are four steps of developing a cross-boundary framework for transformative sustainability education developed by ITSE: (1) finding common interests; (2) creation of learning and sharing by a community of stakeholders; (3) networking between and among universities, students and stakeholders; and (4) a shared framework for designing educational programs. 

ITSE is divided into three dimensions. Firstly, the “IT Dimension” objectifies sustainability by emphasizing a critical and reflexive approach to a broad range of theoretical models, paradigms, and practical techniques for sustainable development.  Secondly, the “I Dimension” explores sustainability by uncovering values, paradigms, perspectives, and personal passion for being a change maker for a more sustainable world.  Thirdly, the “WE Dimension” explores sustainability by highlighting the change potential of diversity and conveying design and facilitation principles for collaborative learning processes in the context of sustainable development.  Most importantly, the framework for transformative sustainability education emphasizes the need for cross-boundary integration, which can be fostered by the exposition of students to those three dimensions through active engagement in experiential learning. 

ITSE has thus created a blueprint for sustainable education through the current design of a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Minor program in Sustainable Development: Empowerment for Action.  ITSE’s practices highlight the importance of a process-oriented perspective for improving our awareness of challenges and opportunities for higher education innovation. ITSE claims that in order to work towards continuous integration across (educational, institutional, scientific, and professional) boundaries, it needs to re-frame itself as network for social learning and continuous reflexive practice.

 

Project Results

So far, the ITSE group has achieved the following outcomes:

·      Hosted an open debate for university administrators, academics, teachers, and students on the Challenges for Higher Education in the 21st Century (June 2, 2009). 

·      Developed a framework for Transformative Sustainability Education that can be applied to program and course design in higher education (September December 2009).

·      Created a design and layout for a BSc Minor in Sustainable Development: Empowerment for Action (January and February 2010).

·      Ran a pilot course of Integral Leadership for Sustainability (January February and May June 2010).

·      Gained university approval to create two new courses which focus on the “I Dimension” and “WE Dimension” of Transformative Sustainability Education respectively (March - April 2011).

Additional Resources:

Universities and Social Commitment Observatory. (2011). Grassroots Cross-boundary Innovation in Higher Education. http://www.guni-rmies.net/news/detail.php?id=1695

Schwarzin, L. (2010). Grassroots Cross-boundary Innovation in Higher Education: Lessons from the Process of Designing Transformative Sustainability Education http://147.83.97.154/repositori/posters/100_Schwarzin.pdf

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