Integrating Multiple Perspectives in an Urban Ecology Course
New approaches are needed to educate university students about urban sustainability challenges. In particular, students need opportunities to learn the importance of integrating not just biophysical issues (e.g. climate change, pollution, loss of biodiversity, etc.), but how these issues are related to societal issues (e.g. racism, poverty, access to health care, etc.). To this end, we created a course that uses a comparative, study abroad approach, focusing on the cities of Rochester, NY (USA) and Malmö, Sweden. Students are provided with numerous scaffolded opportunities to learn from each other, from local experts, and from faculty and students abroad. An assessment of learning outcomes in the course revealed that students who completed the study abroad portion of the course integrated more key topics into their final projects (x̅ = 3.93 ± 0.22) than students who took the same course, but did not go abroad due to the global pandemic in 2020 (x̅ =2.13 ± 0.40; p = 0.004). A survey of students also illustrated that the exposure to a new culture and ideas was key in changing how they thought about environmental problems.
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