The constructivist learning theory

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Our course aims to include the following dimensions: landscapes, sustainable development, interculturality and the digital world. One may claim that this is too ambitious, which may be true from a certain point of view. However, we claim that integrating these dimensions is mutually reinforcing because each one helps giving sense to the other, especially from the learner’s perspective.

Constructivist learning theory facilitates key skills that are particulary important with regard to landscape and sustainable development

In that sense, we would like to point out the following:

  • Landscapes are actively, constantly and individually constructed in and by our minds. This construction builds on previous knowledge while being nested and influenced by a cultural context and the values embedded therein. This construct makes landscapes a perfect conceptual context for interdisciplinary and intercultural learning activities as they provide a reflective platform for sharing knowledge, negotiating values and creating ideas. Furthermore, it is in our landscapes where sustainability challenges become evident and tangible; not only regarding effects, but also concerning envisioning alternatives.
  • Following the theory of educational constructivism, learning results from an individual’s conscious or unconscious connection of new knowledge to his/her existing mental schemes. This process cannot be imposed from outside; it is always an individual act. Therefore, it is highly important that educational environments, and also digital ones, are designed in such a way that they allow learners to externalise their existing knowledge, integrate the knowledge from others and construct new knowledge, ideally in a collaborative process. Educators find themselves in the roles of process designers, facilitators and, most importantly, coaches that provide constant and relevant feedback.
  • Sustainable development has been defined as the ability to meet today’s needs without compromising the needs of future generations. Tackling the dimension of sustainable development in education requires an overall alignment of instructional design with relevant learning objectives. The publication of Wiek, et al. (2015) provides an orientation by distinguishing the following five dimensions aimed at qualifying learners for putting sustainable development into practice.

These are:

  1. Systems thinking competence
  2. Futures thinking (or anticipatory) competence
  3. Values thinking (or normative) competence
  4. Strategic thinking (or action-oriented) competence
  5. Collaboration (or interpersonal) competence

In order to support knowledge construction of learners from different disciplines, geographic location and cultures, we introduced the seminar wiki and the CO-LAND case study framework to scaffold this complex process. The five dimensions of learning objectives for sustainable development are integrated in the entire CO-LAND learning process and also supported by the CO-LAND case study framework.

Further Reading

Wiek, A., Bernstein, M., Foley, R., Cohen, M., Forrest, N., Kuzdas, C., Kay, B., & Withycombe Keeler, L. (2015). Operationalising competencies in higher education for sustainable development. In: Barth, M., Michelsen, G., Rieckmann, M., Thomas, I. (Eds.) (2015). Handbook of Higher Education for Sustainable Development. Routledge, London. pp. 241-260. [[1]]