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PBL Env Programmes

Limerick Institute of Technology
Web Site
Workshop, Practicum
Thematic Area
Natural Sciences
Factual description
Problem Based Learning approaches on the LIT, B.Sc. (Hon) Environmental Science and Climate and the B.Sc. (Hon) Environmental Management in Agriculture.

These undergraduate degrees include a component of learning and assessment through Problem Based Learning (PBL) in the first and second year of studies. This description is of a PBL exercise that runs jointly for both degrees over a week in the first year of the degrees.

Two academic modules work jointly on this exercise, Module 1: “Introduction to Sustainable Development” and Module 2: “Professional Skills in Third Level”. The “Problem” is how to improve sustainability on the Institute campus in Thurles, Tipperary and feed in practical recommendations to the student and staff led “Green Campus Initiative”. It is facilitated by lectures with background information on the principles of sustainable development. Then, a day-long visit to a local Ecovillage of 60 houses is arranged. This allows students to enquire how sustainability principals are being put into practice in a real-world setting. Students in groups of five then work together to present their findings to staff and make recommendations to the “Green Campus Committee” of greening of the campus can be improved. This process fulfills part of the learning outcomes of the modules and is assessed as a marked continuous assessment element of the degrees.
Relevance in complex systems
Sustainability is a simple concept but very difficult to embed and put into practice in our modern fossil fuel powered, capitalist system. Systems thinking is a crucial concept to get sustainability from theory to practice. At a basic level the three recognised “systems” of Environment, Economy and Society have to be assessed and future development needs to be balanced in order to maximise positive outcomes for the greatest number of people and to the benefit of the environment. Systems mapping and delving into the complexity of competing priorities in the systems as outlined, is a ley learning for these undergraduate students.
Strong points
While structured with theoretical and applied principles, the key strength of this case study is allowing the students see sustainability in action and then consider how successful approaches can be applied in a separate complex system.
Transferability potential
This is approach has good transferability potential. It does require a strong collegiate approach across academic programmes and modules and needs logistical and academic planning support.