Teaching socio-environmental synthesis with the case studies approach

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Dec 11, 2014
Cynthia A. Wei, William R. Burnside, Judy P. Che-Castaldo


Socio-environmental synthesis (S-E synthesis) is a research method and problem-solving approach that integrates existing knowledge and data from natural and social sciences to advance understanding of socio-environmental systems and to inform solutions to environmental problems. As science becomes more transdisciplinary and collaborative and as new opportunities presented by the information age change how we do science, the teaching of S-E synthesis is increasingly important for preparing future environmental problem solvers, scientists, and citizens. S-E synthesis also provides a rich context for classroom instruction that can facilitate the achievement of diverse learning objectives. Here, we discuss efforts to adapt the evidence-based teaching practice of the case study method for teaching about the complex and interdisciplinary approach of S-E synthesis. We provide insights about the effectiveness of this teaching approach and offer practical advice for writing and implementing S-E synthesis cases. These insights are informed by experiences creating and using S-E synthesis case studies, both ours and those of participants of a short course on “Teaching about Socio-Environmental Synthesis with Case Studies” held at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). Assessment of S-E synthesis learning goals and the effectiveness of the case study method for teaching S-E synthesis are also discussed. Full development of this approach for teaching S-E synthesis will require a community effort, and our intention here is to offer a preliminary vision and qualitative assessment, to stimulate discussion, and to invite readers to join our efforts to create, use, and assess S-E synthesis case studies for teaching.

Access the article at: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13412-014-0204-x

Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 
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