Integrating problem and project-based learning into sustainability programs: A case study on the school of sustainability at Arizona state university

Arnim Wiek, Angela Xiong, Katja Brundiers, Sander Van Der Leeuw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

135 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose – The article aims to describe the problem- and project-based learning (PPBL) program and the institutional context at Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability (SOS), with the goal of offering experience-based guidance for similar initiatives in sustainability programs around the world. Design/methodology/approach – This case study presents the diverse PPBL activities that SOS offers on the undergraduate and the graduate levels and examines the institutional structures in place that support these activities. Data were collected through literature and document reviews, observations, interviews, student evaluations and faculty surveys. Findings – The review of the PPBL program at SOS illustrates a case of successfully inaugurating a PPBL program in sustainability at a major university in the USA. Yet, a key challenge for this program and similar programs around the world is how to maintain the institutional momentum and make advances after the initial takeoff. SOS is attempting to address this issue by developing greater program cohesion and coordination, synthesizing past products and learning, monitoring and evaluating impacts, and developing PPBL training programs for faculty and graduate students. Practical implications – The experiences and findings presented can help other programs to articulate the benefits of a PPBL initiative, anticipate implementation challenges and successfully support their own PPBL initiatives through adequate institutional structures. The review points to the fact that the major impact on both student learning and outcomes for partner organizations is achieved through a concerted effort by the organization as a whole. Successful PPBL programs require both top-down commitments from the administration and bottom-up drive from interested faculty and students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-449
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Volume15
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 26 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Education

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