Collaboration, reflection and imagination: Re-thinking assessment in pbl education for sustainability

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Higher Education Institutions are increasingly aware of the urgency of the global sustainability crisis and making efforts to prepare a new generation of students to rise to the challenge. New sustainability initiatives are appearing in numerous disciplines, from introducing sustainability contents to disciplinary courses, to overhauling entire curricula with an interdisciplinary, problem-based approach to environmental issues. However, little attention has been paid to the role of assessment in education for sustainability – creating a problem where students want to engage in rethinking the world of tomorrow, but feel constrained by outdated individual, disciplinary, recall-based examinations that do not promote effective engagement. We noticed this at Erasmus University College (EUC), a liberal arts institution in The Netherlands that uses the seven-step (a.k.a. “Maastricht”) approach to problem-based learning. Our previous research showed EUC students experienced despair about sustainability issues but did not feel empowered to act on it. In response, inspired by alternative sustainability scholars Donna Haraway, Anna Tsing, Cyril Dion, Pablo Servigne, Renée Lertzman and Stephen Sterling, we developed three new forms of assessment for a bachelor PBL course called “The Climate Crisis”. Our aim was to foster three key attitudes identified by these thinkers to help us through the sustainability crisis: collaboration, (self) reflection, and imagination. In this PBL practice paper, we present the modes of assessment that we developed: firstly, a collaborative documentary filming project about climate change in the Netherlands; secondly, a reflection diary which the students use as data to write a meta-reflection essay on their journey in coming to grips with climate change; finally, a world-building essay in which students use their imagination to contemplate the rest of their lives in a warming world. We conclude on a brief assessment the impact of these new assessment methods on students through an analysis of the end-of-course evaluations.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication8th International Research Symposium on Problem-Based Learning, IRSPBL 2020
EditorsAida Guerra, Anette Kolmos, Juebei Chen, Maiken Winther
PublisherAalborg University Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9788772103136
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Event8th International Research Symposium on Problem-Based Learning, IRSPBL 2020 - Virtual, Online
Duration: 18 Aug 202021 Aug 2020

Publication series

SeriesInternational Research Symposium on PBL


Conference8th International Research Symposium on Problem-Based Learning, IRSPBL 2020
CityVirtual, Online

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The authors, 2020.


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