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Applying a “theory of change” process to facilitate transdisciplinary sustainability education

Derek Armitage, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo; Environmental Change and Governance Group, University of Waterloo
Julia Arends, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo
Natasha L Barlow, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo
Alana Closs, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo
Geneva A Cloutis, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo
Matthew Cowley, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo
Christina Davis, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo
Sheralyn D Dunlop, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo
Sara Ganowski, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo
Charlotte Hings, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo
Lesley Chepkemoi Rotich, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo
Kyle Schang, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo
Stephen Tsuji, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo
Cassandra Wiens, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-11121-240320

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Abstract

Transdisciplinary sustainability training is a recognized need in many graduate programs. However, there is limited analysis of specific pedagogical tools to support this effort, particularly from the perspective of graduate students. Here, we reflect on the application of a “theory of change” process to support transdisciplinary thinking among early career researchers with diverse disciplinary backgrounds. For class participants, the theory of change process helped to clarify the diversity of actors associated with their research, to unpack their assumptions about complex problems, to clarify important causal linkages, and to support the development of a systems perspective. Challenges in using the theory of change in the classroom context included the difficulty of putting boundaries around student projects, and the additional time requirements involved in completing a detailed theory of change. The process helped class participants situate their specific and more disciplinary research projects in a broader sustainability context.

Key words

early career; environment; graduate; interdisciplinary; sustainability

Copyright © 2019 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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