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Open AccessArticle

Competences for Solving Complex Problems: A Cross-Sectional Survey on Higher Education for Sustainability Learning and Transdisciplinarity

1
Department of Geography and Regional Science, Regional Centre for Didactics of Geography and Economics, Faculty of Environmental, Regional and Educational Sciences, University of Graz, 8010 Graz, Austria
2
Independent Researcher, 8010 Graz, Austria
3
Department of Knowledge and Communication Management, Faculty of Business and Globalization, Danube University Krems, 3500 Krems, Austria
4
Complexity Science Hub Vienna (CSH), 1080 Vienna, Austria
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2020, 12(15), 6016; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12156016
Received: 4 June 2020 / Revised: 11 July 2020 / Accepted: 15 July 2020 / Published: 27 July 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Sustainable Education and Approaches)
Successfully coping with complex, real-world challenges, such as those related to sustainable development and the resilience of coupled human–environment systems, calls increasingly for adapted forms of education and extended competences. Hence, we argue that, beyond knowledge and expertise in professional domains, additionally, personal, systemic, creative, and sociocultural competences are required to meet such challenges. Herefor, institutions of higher and continuing education play a crucial role. In this paper, universities as institutions of higher education are critically considered in relation to delivering education for sustainable development by raising awareness and providing the necessary competences to cope with complex problems such as sustainable development through effective forms of higher and continuing education as well as training. Research on attitudes and perceptions regarding sustainable development and the perceived need for comprehensive competences required to deal with such complex problems is still lacking. Our study provides a first attempt to elucidate core aspects of these attitudes, perceptions, and competences aiming to contribute to future, more tailored education approaches. We discuss the outcomes of a survey on sustainability in teaching and learning conducted at four Austrian universities. The analyzed sample comprised 3200 students as the recipients of, and 498 lecturers as the providers of, sustainability education in various academic disciplines at four distinct Austrian universities. Applying a questionnaire-based investigation of self-reported sustainability-related perceptions, attitudes, and competences and conducting factor analysis and cluster analysis, five sustainability types were identified that revealed a type of specific core awareness of sustainability and the perception of required competences related to sustainable development. The results presented are positioned to build a basis for further investigation that goes beyond the self-reported assessments to enable a comparison with sustainability-related, real-world problem-solving performance. View Full-Text
Keywords: complex problems; coupled human–environment system; sustainable development; sustainable development goals (SDGs); SD values; resilience; higher-education institutions (HEIs); transdisciplinarity; problem-solving competences; C2P2S Competence Framework complex problems; coupled human–environment system; sustainable development; sustainable development goals (SDGs); SD values; resilience; higher-education institutions (HEIs); transdisciplinarity; problem-solving competences; C2P2S Competence Framework
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MDPI and ACS Style

Risopoulos-Pichler, F.; Daghofer, F.; Steiner, G. Competences for Solving Complex Problems: A Cross-Sectional Survey on Higher Education for Sustainability Learning and Transdisciplinarity. Sustainability 2020, 12, 6016. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12156016

AMA Style

Risopoulos-Pichler F, Daghofer F, Steiner G. Competences for Solving Complex Problems: A Cross-Sectional Survey on Higher Education for Sustainability Learning and Transdisciplinarity. Sustainability. 2020; 12(15):6016. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12156016

Chicago/Turabian Style

Risopoulos-Pichler, Filippina; Daghofer, Fedor; Steiner, Gerald. 2020. "Competences for Solving Complex Problems: A Cross-Sectional Survey on Higher Education for Sustainability Learning and Transdisciplinarity" Sustainability 12, no. 15: 6016. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12156016

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