Enhancing student understanding of socio-environmental problems through interdisciplinary synthesis and case studies

Friday 3:15pm REC Center Large Ice Overlook Room


Cynthia Wei, SESYNC
Judy P. Che-Castaldo, National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)
William R. Burnside, National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)
Socio-environmental synthesis (S-E synthesis) is a research approach aimed at advancing understanding of socio-environmental systems in which environmental problems are embedded. It is also a problem-solving approach that recognizes the integrated nature of social and environmental problems and emphasizes that interdisciplinary (and transdisciplinary) research across the natural and social sciences is required to address such issues. As such, S-E synthesis is a topic that fits well in a broad range of courses. Reflecting the complex nature of the S-E systems being studied, S-E synthesis requires an understanding of concepts related to systems dynamics and requires the practice of several broadly applicable competencies. These include the ability to integrate knowledge, data, and approaches across disciplines, the ability to communicate across disciplines, and the ability to work collaboratively with diverse team members. This presentation will focus on teaching about S-E synthesis and related concepts and competencies using the case study method, an evidence-based teaching practice commonly used in medical, law, business, and science. This method is particularly relevant for teaching about socio-environmental issues because it engages students with relevant real-world problems, incorporates the complexity and disciplinary diversity of authentic environmental issues, and challenges students to question and problem-solve as researchers do. In this presentation, we will discuss efforts at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) to adapt this approach for teaching about S-E synthesis, and will describe an example case study focused on endangered species management. An overview of promising practices, challenges, and resources for using and writing case studies will also be provided.

Presentation Media

CWei Presentation (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 57.2MB Jul17 15)

Presentation Media

CWei Presentation (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) bytes Jul17 15)