Learning how to understand complexity and deal with sustainability challenges – A framework for a comprehensive approach and its application in university education

R. Willamo, L. Helenius, C. Holmström, L. Haapanen, Vilma Sandström, E. Huotari, K. Kaarre, U. Värre, A. Nuotiomäki, J. Happonen, L. Kolehmainen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Sustainability challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, poverty and rapid urbanization are complex and strongly interrelated. In order to successfully deal with these challenges, we need comprehensive approaches that integrate knowledge from multiple disciplines and perspectives and emphasize interconnections. In short, they aid in observing matters in a wider perspective without losing an understanding of the details. In order to teach and learn a comprehensive approach, we need to better understand what comprehensive thinking actually is. In this paper, we present a conceptual framework for a comprehensive approach, termed the GHH framework. The framework comprises three dimensions: generalism, holism, and holarchism. It contributes to the academic community’s understanding of comprehensive thinking and it can be used for integrating comprehensive thinking into education. Also, practical examples of the application of the framework in university teaching are presented. We argue that an ideal approach to sustainability challenges and complexity in general is a balanced, dialectical combination of comprehensive and differentiative approaches. The current dominance of specialization, or the differentiative approach, in university education calls for a stronger emphasis on comprehensive thinking skills. Comprehensiveness should not be considered as a flawed approach, but should instead be considered as important an aspect in education as specialized and differentiative skills.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
JournalEcological Modelling
Volume370
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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