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Designing for Change: Environmental Education Research and Practice

293 people completed this program


Environmental education (EE) research can create an essential foundation for enhancing and improving programs, and it can support high-quality, theoretically and empirically based evaluation. Engaging with academic research can help EE practitioners more effectively understand how people learn about the environment, connect with the natural world, develop environmental identities, build citizen-action skills, and envision their role as part of a social movement. .

Using strategies from Stanford’s design thinking school (“the”), course participants will learn-by-doing through activities that foster innovative approaches to EE. The course teaches participants how to develop tailored solutions for integrating research into their own EE practice. Participants will leave the session with tools and resources for accessing and applying research.

This course is designed for a range of stakeholders in the EE space: field educators from local, regional, and national organizations; environmental educators who work in a range of settings such as schools, museums, aquaria, zoos, gardens, and parks, among others; funders; and other stakeholders who are interested in infusing their on-the-ground practice with research-informed perspectives.

Given the course’s focus on design thinking, participants are highly encouraged to take the course with a partner. The activities are organized as partner work in order to help participants reflect and gain a deeper understanding of their program needs.

This course was developed by members of Stanford’s Social Ecology Lab led by Professor Nicole Ardoin, including Dr. Mele Wheaton, Dr. Stephanie Rafanelli, Emily Williams, and Marika Jaeger. The course team members are researchers as well as long-time educators working in both formal and informal learning institutions. This course was designed because the Social Ecology Lab work is dedicated to helping make academic research more accessible and usable for educators in a variety of settings.

In this course, you will learn the following:

  • How to pinpoint the change you want in your program
  • How to interview stakeholders to help you refine your needs
  • How to find research that’s relevant to your work
  • How to use transferable design-thinking tools and strategies for applying research findings to your work
  • How to create a prototype that addresses a change in your work based on the most-applicable research findings


Module 1: Setting the Stage

Module 2: Defining Research

Module 3: Selecting Your Spark

Module 4: Interviewing for Insight

Module 5: Finding Your Change Space

Module 6: Diving into the Research

Module 7: Moving from Ideas to Action

Module 8: Prototyping and Beyond

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Designing for Change: Environmental Education Research and Practice
6 weeks
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