This building block is part of a six-block series from the SUSTAINICUM collection:
- From logistic growth to a turning point in global resource consumption- overview
- Logistic growth without time-delay
- Time-delayed logistic growth
- Optimal population
- Technological progress
- Turning point in global resource consumption
This set of building blocks focus on population growth, the capacity of ecosystems and the relationship between productivity, resource consumption, utility (welfare) and technological progress. After an introductory description, a mathematical model of the corresponding subject matter will be presented for each of the building blocks. This allows the subject to be understood within the dynamics of a system and for students to reflect on the prognoses, as well as realistic alternatives.
When implementing one or more of the following five building blocks, keep in mind that each subsequent block builds upon the previous block in the same order in which they are listed above. Each building block is comprised of a background text (supplemented with suggested literature), including a student exercise, as well as a dynamic diagram, illustrating the model and its dependency on given parameters.
The most significant learning goal of this building block is that the modeling level (formalized, mathematical) and the level of concrete application (and the problems related to it) complement one another. This complementary relationship is often difficult for students to grasp (excepting perhaps those studying math-related subjects). The combination of background texts, dynamic diagrams and exercises offers various points of approach in understanding the models and the connection between “theory” and “reality.” In working through the material students should be given sufficient time to comprehend and digest what they have learned.
Here are several suggestions for implementing the building blocks:
- Ideally, the course leader introduces the topic to the students, more or less covering the contents of the background text, which the students should also read on their own time (either before in preparation or afterwards while working through the exercises). It also makes sense for the course leader to give an introduction on the dynamic diagram. The total scope of the presentation should be between 45 and 60 minutes, depending on the building block.
- Working independently to solve concrete questions is central to the students’ learning process. This is accomplished through student exercises or other similar questions posed by the course leader, adjusted to the knowledge and abilities of the student group. The creation of small working groups of 2-3 students, either during the course or if time doesn’t permit, outside the classroom, is a way to encourage independent learning. Depending on the building block and the students’ previous knowledge of the subject, 30 to 120 minutes should be allowed for working time.
- Whether students should record their results in written form or report orally (or both) depends on what is possible based on the scope of the course. In any case, students should have the possibility at the end of the course to report any difficulties in understanding and to ask questions.
- A follow-up discussion is recommended to recapitulate the covered content and the applied methods, to summarize how the technical and content levels relate to one another, and to pose the question, “What have we learned?”
- Two variations can give the course further depth:
- Small groups of students delve deeper into one of the topics using the suggested literature listed in the texts. The results can be written up in essay form.
- Critical questions on the reliability of the discussed models, as well as on the significance of the findings regarding humanity’s future can be developed using role-play (with pre-determined and designated pro and contra roles). The course leader should decide whether (and at which point) they will correct students and which positions they “let stand” (if effectually argued).
The descriptions stated in the following information section relate to all five building blocks.