Creating Transdisciplinary Dialogue & Phronesis in Pursuit of Sustainability

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This book is the result of a rather interesting writing process initiated by the editors about two years ago when they decided that the focus of the book, transdisciplinary dialogue, should also be its process… In order to realize this they invited about 30 scholars from quite different disciplinary backgrounds who did not know each other (most of them anyway) very well or at all, but all had an interest in trans- and interdisciplinarity and a shared concern about the well-being of people and planet. During a joint ‘thinkshop’ held at Cornell’s Field Station in upstate New York, the participants jointly conceptualized the book and created writing ‘duo’s’. I myself formed a duo with Science Historian Scott Peters and bonded with him around the concepts of phronesis, post-normal science and transformative learning (find a link to our chapter at the end of this post). Author-teams were also asked to include a piece of art in their work that somehow captures the spirit of their joint writing venture. On the publisher’s website the wonderful book that resulted is described as follows:

Environmental educators often adhere to a relatively narrow theoretical paradigm focusing on changing attitudes and knowledge, which are assumed to foster pro-environmental behaviors, which, in turn, leads to better environmental quality. This book takes a different approach to trying to understand how environmental education might influence people, their communities, and the environment. The authors view changing environmental behaviors as a «wicked» problem, that is, a problem that does not readily lend itself to solutions using existing disciplinary approaches. The book as a whole opens up new avenues for pursuing environmental education research and practice and thus expands the conversation around environmental education, behaviors, and quality. Through developing transdisciplinary research questions and conceptual paradigms, this book also suggests new practices beyond those currently used in environmental education, natural resources management, and other environmental fields.

Contents: Marianne E. Krasny: Introduction. Tales of a Transdisciplinary Scholar – Joseph E. Heimlich/Mary Miss: Art and Environmental Education Research: Reflections on Participation – Jeppe Læssøe/Marianne E. Krasny: Participation in Environmental Education: Crossing Boundaries under the Big Tent – Martha C. Monroe/Shorna Broussard Allred: Building Capacity for Community-Based Natural Resource Management with Environmental Education – Scott Peters/Arjen E. J. Wals: Learning and Knowing in Pursuit of Sustainability: Concepts and Tools for Transdisciplinary Environmental Research – Barbara A. Crawford/Rebecca Jordan: Inquiry, Models, and Complex Reasoning to Transform Learning in Environmental Education – Joseph E. Heimlich/Mary Miss: Art and Environmental Education Research: Reflections on Appreciation – John Fraser/Carol B. Brandt: The Emotional Life of the Environmental Educator – Leesa Fawcett/Janis L. Dickinson: Psychological Resilience, Uncertainty, and Biological Conservation: Junctures Between Emotional Knowledges, NatureExperiences, and Environmental Education – Joseph E. Heimlich/Mary Miss: Art and Environmental Education Research: Reflections on Place – Timon McPhearson/Keith G. Tidball: Disturbances in Urban Social-Ecological Systems: Niche Opportunities for Environmental Education – Richard C. Stedman/Nicole M. Ardoin: Mobility, Power, and Scale in Place-Based Environmental Education – Marianne E. Krasny/Megan K. Halpern/Bruce V. Lewenstein/Justin Dillon: Conclusion. Do «Arranged Marriages» Generate Novel Insights?

You find a sneak preview of the chapter I co-authored with Scott Peters – titled: Learning and Knowing in Pursuit of Sustainability: Concepts and Tools for Trans-Disciplinary Environmental Research here: FinalPeters&Wals2013<

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‘Science as community — Sustainability-oriented trans-disciplinary research’

Recently I contributed to the 5th Living Knowledge Conference which was held in Bonn, Germany last May with a talk on “Science as community: Sustainability- oriented trans-disciplinary research”. The entire talk has now been uploaded on youtube as have been several of the other talks held at this energizing event. The talk can be found here. Since the slides I used are not always (clearly) visible you can find the slides I used here: WalsBonnLivingKnowledge.

The conference covered the following teams: 

A. Setting shared research agendas by CSOs and Research Institutes 

B. The role of Higher Education in creating knowledge with communities
C. Communities and students learning together
D. Evaluation and quality improvement: New lessons learned on measuring   the value of community engagement and  collaborative research
E. Developing  partnership working for research – civil society engagement
F. Policies to support collaborative research relationships

My talk related mostly to theme B which is described on the conference website as follows: Research and education are going to play a central role during the transformation process towards a knowledge society, as the realisation of the necessity for restructuring the world economy has been triggered mainly by scientific knowledge. Society should therefore decide on actions that are not a direct response to recently experienced events, but motivated by foresight and precaution. For this purpose, the debate between science, politics and society should be far more structured, more obligatory, and livelier, to ensure a constructive discourse about the best ways to achieve sustainability.

Key questions:

  • How can problem-based approaches and transdisciplinarity be encouraged?
  • How can a relation of mutual trust between researchers and CSOs be developed?
  • How can career opportunities for young researchers engaging with communities be improved?
  • How can universities and research institutions give researchers and students more opportunities to reflect about the societal consequences of their work?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3cda8qyiuI&feature=relmfu