Real-world learning complement the methodological competence of students in applying problem-solving approaches, say Brundiers, Wiek and Redman (2010). Real-world learning affords students opportunities to critically reflect on, to negotiate and collaborate with academic supervisors and community project partners. Students get the opportunity to turn intellectual concepts and methods into personal practical ability. Learning from addressing real-world sustainability problems exposes students to “where the rubber hits the road”, according to Brundiers, Wiek and Redman (2010: 311). Students learn from the development of sustainability strategies and projects, within the context of real-life politics, culture, traditions, and existing processes. Real-world scenarios force students to explore and identify accountability; to hold the relevant people accountable; and to accept own accountability with respect to the real-world sustainability project agreement.
Although students are likely to develop key competencies in sustainability from real-world learning opportunities; the key competencies which students need to develop must be made known’ Brundiers, Wiek and Redman (2010: 313) caution that “the devil is in the details”. The design and implementation of the real-world learning determines the nature and scope of the experience. The “functional and progressive” model of integrating real-world learning into the curriculum comprises a number of loosely structured real-world learning experiences in preparation for the capstone experience. This is illustrated by Brundiers, Wiek and Redman (2010: 314) in Figure 1 below. The real-world learning is spread over four years. Three factors shape the nature of the learning, namely (1) the role of the instructors to design and facilitate; (2) the level of interaction of students with the partners in the community project; and (3) the different forms of collaboration. There is linear progression. Figure 2 illustrates the capstone module in more detail and Figure 3 indicates how the capstone-module option may help students develop certain key competencies but not necessary all/others.
Brundiers, K.; Wiek, A. & Redman C. L. 2010. Real-world learning opportunities in sustainability: from classroom into the real world. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 11 (4): 308-324.