Action research workshop for transdisciplinary sustainability science
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The Research Institute for Sustainability Science and Technology under the Master degree in Sustainability Science and Technology organises the course Action Research Workshop on Science and Technology for Sustainability (5 ECTS). The authors have been coordinating the course during the academic years 13/14, 14/15 and 15/16. The purpose of the workshop is to put together civil society organisations, local administrations, students and educators to collaboratively undertake responsible research, performing transdisciplinary learning environments and by using an action-research framework, to answer questions such as: Who are we researching for? Who profits from our research? What are the impacts of our research? Which methodologies and tools should be used when dealing with sociotechnical sustainability challenges? Students work on real projects, related to local sustainability problems, represented by a community entity (Service learning and Campus Lab). Action research methodology is used with a two-cycle approach. In each real-life project, students, faculty and stakeholders are asked to follow the action-reflexion process of action research projects: Action 1- Jointly defining: Project purpose; Customer and interest; Involved actors; Reflexion 1- Students define: research question, initial situation, needed additional information, action Strategy, Tasks planning and distribution: Action 2 - Items returning and discussing with stakeholders, Reflexion 2 - revising and reformulating. Having now run the workshop three times, we can conclude that: First, students realized the significance of framing an investigation under a research methodological framework that allows bringing research to the community, enhancing transdisciplinarity in any initiative or action in sustainability science. They set out the importance of some topics and the difficulty to hold them. Second, the formulation of the problem became one of the most arduous tasks in the process; difficulties were mainly related to the perception of the problem from distinct community group motivations. Third, interaction and communication with stakeholders and the recognition of their role was problematic as engineering students are not usually trained to work in wicked problems nor accompany stakeholders during the whole process. Finally, it is relevant to highlight that during the process students faced conflict and frustrating situations both within their team and with stakeholders. To help tackle this problem, an Emotional Intelligence module was introduced in the workshop which proved useful in helping students to solve some paralyzing situations, which could otherwise have stopped the progress of the project. We suggest that engineering students need specific training in transdisciplinary research and in conflict resolution, to avoid collapsing in frustration when dealing with real transdisciplinary sustainability transitions.
CitationTejedor, G., Segalas, J. Action research workshop for transdisciplinary sustainability science. "Sustainability Science", Juliol 2017.