Bringing together an interdisciplinary and international team of experts with experience in developing and implementing teaching and learning programs, the MRI Science Leadership Council project Education for Sustainable Mountain Development aligns with one of MRI’s key goals: Action is taken to support the development of the next generation of researchers interested in global change in mountains.

 

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SUSTAINABLE MOUNTAIN DEVELOPMENT CURRICULA: CURRENT PRACTICE AND LESSONS LEARNED | INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN CONFERENCE 2019 WORKSHOP AND POSTER

Why does the study of mountains attract attention around the world? What prompts the establishment of mountain programmes? What are the unique features of a mountain studies curriculum and what forms do study programmes take? What roles do inter- and transdisciplinarity play? What kinds of students are attracted to studying mountains, and what are the job prospects they can expect? These and other questions are at the heart of a study carried out in 2019 by the Mountain Research Initiative’s Education for Sustainable Mountain Development Project.

The study fills a gap in international knowledge: while education for sustainable development (ESD) has generally made advances, little is known about how it contributes to learning about mountains, where sustainable development challenges are pronounced due to the frequent combination of vulnerability to global climate change and socioeconomic marginalization. The study involves in-depth case studies and interviews with teachers and trainers of diverse sustainable mountain development curricula around the world in order to examine programme objectives and policies, structure, staff, and teaching and learning methods. Benefits of participating in the study include: an opportunity to create or increase the visibility of ESMD curricula at participating institutions; gaining insights into how existing ESMD curricula compare internationally; and concrete ideas and tools for creating, consolidating, or updating ESMD curricula.

The ESMD Curriculum Review and Development Study has aimed to generate three main outputs: (1) A policy brief highlighting the findings and making the case for ESMD (audience: education officials and funders); (2) An academic paper summarizing the curriculum case studies (audience: academic institutions); and (3) Feedback to academic institutions through conference presentations (audience: teachers and trainers).

This flash talk and poster provide a synopsis of the study results and invite discussion on the lessons learned and the way forward.

Find out more about this and other ESMD workshops taking place during the International Mountain Conference 2019 on the conference website.  

 

Key Project Details

Duration: December 2017 – September 2019 

Members: MRI SLC members Jörg Balsiger (lead), Fabien Arnaud, Edwin Castellanos, Alexey Gunya, Ruijun Long, Julia Klein, Andreas Muhar, Kenichi Ueno 


Project Background

Over the coming decades, mountain regions and societies will experience dramatic biophysical and socioeconomic transformations as a consequence of global changes; some of these will manifest very rapidly, others more slowly. Education and training for local people and young scientists play a crucial role in fostering understanding of these complex processes, and in developing and transferring competences for contributing to effective adaptation and transformation strategies.

Teaching and learning about mountains involves challenges including the definition of the study object, learning outcomes, and teaching approaches; the range of disciplines to be involved; institutional positioning vis-à-vis existing programs, departments, and faculties; and the need and availability of financial resources.

The Education for Sustainable Mountain Development (ESMD) project was initiated in December 2017 to address some of these challenges. Bringing together an interdisciplinary and international team of experts with experience in developing and implementing teaching and learning programs, the project aligns with one of MRI’s key goals: Action is taken to support the development of the next generation of researchers interested in global change in mountains.

 

Project Aims

This project’s aim is to provide knowledge about and support the development of teaching and learning opportunities and challenges in academic education for sustainable mountain development (ESMD).

This will be achieved through three specific objectives and corresponding activities:

1. Develop a global inventory of ESMD opportunities

Lead: MRI Coordination Office

The team will collect and organise information on ESMD activities and make it available as an online database for students and teachers.

2. Analyze experiences and provide guidance for ESMD curriculum development

Lead: Kenichi Ueno and Jörg Balsiger

The curriculum review and development study (CRDS) will offer insights into the uniqueness and challenges of ESMD as well as guidance for contemporary curriculum development. The study addresses a gap in international knowledge: while education for sustainable development (ESD) has generally made advances, little is known about how it contributes to learning about mountains, where sustainable development challenges are pronounced due to the frequent combination of vulnerability to global climate change and socioeconomic marginality. The study involves in-depth case studies and interviews with teachers and trainers of diverse sustainable mountain development curricula around the world in order to examine program objectives and policies, structure, staff, and teaching and learning methods.

3. Critically assess transdisciplinarity concepts and practices from a cross-cultural perspective

Lead: Andreas Muhar and Jörg Balsiger

Since the emergence of transdisciplinarity as an important research and teaching paradigm, numerous efforts have been made to explain what transdisciplinarity is (and is not), how transdisciplinarity can be implemented and evaluated, and what impacts can be expected from it. Much of this discussion has presented transdisciplinarity as an ideal type, with little consideration of the specific context in which transdisciplinary approaches are put into practice. Where context is raised, it is often through the simplified North-South lens. This activity of the ESMD project seeks to address this gap by asking under what circumstances can what kinds of transdisciplinarity support the attainment of specific (SMD) education objectives? A new conceptual framework will reflect on the impact of such factors as sustainability framing concepts, the role of science and scientists in society and in power relationships with other actors, and the cultural traditions of debate and decision making. The conceptual framework will be illustrated with transdisciplinary education initiatives from different parts of the world.

 

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