Sustainicum Collection

Consus Qëllimi i projektit është të krijojë një rrjet rajonal shkencor-shoqëror për risitë e qëndrueshmërisë në Shqipëri e Kosovë me qëllim forcimin e lidhjes dhe bashkëpunimit të institucioneve në fushën e arsimit të lartë, kërkimit dhe praktikës.

Resource facts

  • 5 deri në 10 studentë
    11 deri në 30 studentë
  • Deri në 3 njësi leksionesh
    4 -7 njesi leksionesh
    deri ne 1 semester
    Me shume se 1 semester
  • Lidhja me Web e nevojshme
  • Anglisht

Resource Description

Additional attachments

Transdisciplinary case study approach(Resource ID: 60)

Understanding and teaching the complex nature of sustainable development is a challenging task for educators. How to impart systemic thinking, interpersonal skills, broaden students’ perspectives and let them contribute to solving real-world problems? Transdisciplinary case studies present a comprehensive teaching and learning approach that address these issues by dealing with complex sustainability challenges that are being tackled by different stakeholders.

Transdisciplinary case studies are an appropriate method when dealing with complex, unstructured and so called “ill-defined” problems, where the initial and target states of the system are difficult to define and where approaches for solving the problem are not known yet.

Jahn et al. describe transdisciplinarity as “a reflexive research approach that addresses societal problems by means of interdisciplinary collaboration as well as the collaboration between researchers and extra-scientific actors; its aim is to enable mutual learning processes between science and society; integration is the main cognitive challenge of the research process” (2012, p. 4). Transdisciplinarity hence describes a shift from science on/about society towards science for/with society and hence goes beyond participatory methods but actively involves stakeholders in the research process, e.g. by commonly formulating the research objectives and contributing their knowledge and experiences (cp. Scholz & Marks 2001; Scholz et al. 2006). Transdisciplinary teaching does not only contribute to students’ learning, but educators and practitioners learn as well.


The embedded case study approach is developed in three phases:

  1. Identifying a societal relevant problem
  2. Analysing the problem
  3. Bringing results to fruition (Jahn et al. 2012; Pohl & Hirsch Hadorn 2007).

Phase 1 includes the problem framing and structuring by all stakeholders involved (researchers, students, practitioners), which leads to the formulation of research questions and a shared goal. In phase 2 the project is being executed. By applying different methods (e.g. system dynamics, future workshops, MAUT, etc.) the system is being analysed in order to co-develop innovative and solution-oriented knowledge. This knowledge then affects the development of strategies on how to tackle the case specific problem (phase 3). The challenge is to develop solutions that are of relevance for and meet the expectations of all stakeholders involved.

Stakeholders are actively involved in the research process in all phases.


Note: If you have the impression that a transdisciplinary case study approach, where a real societal problem is being addressed with a variety of stakeholders, is too comprehensive to be integrated in your university course, you may like to implement case study teaching first, where students work on real-world cases but without directly being involved.

Lloji i metodës së mësimdhënies
  • case study
Përpjekjet për përgatitjen
Të larta
Përshkrimi i përpjekjeve të përgatitjes
Lecturers need know-how about transdisciplinary teaching; ideally they have themselves participated in a td case study before. Lecturers need to be well informed about the case and need to thoroughly choose stakeholders and researchers from other disciplines to work with. An appropriate mix of methods have to be chosen.
Necessary documents / materials

Before applying a transdisciplinary case study, the lecturer should be knowledgeable about this approach (see suggested references below) and the specific research context, as well as he/she needs to be aware of the requirements regarding his/her role in the process as a learning facilitator and mediator.

Integrimi i palëve të interesuara
In transdisciplinary case study settings societal stakeholders/practitioners are integral part of the process and are involved from problem framing and identifying of research questions, to the research itself and implementation of results. Their non-scientific knowledge is seen as equally important as the knowledge by the researchers. Societal stakeholders often have very context specific knowledge and expertise of regional characteristics, which is of high value for the research process. They benefit from such collaborations in terms of being confronted with new ideas and questions by the students and researchers, which may lead to an increased understanding of possible solutions for a specific problem. On the other hand students and researchers benefit from the collaboration with practitioners through their regional expertise in identifying problems and assessing the practicability of particular solutions.
Continuous self-reflections among all participants are vital for the research process.
Temat e qëndrueshmërisë
Examples of transdisciplinary case studies:
- Case studies by the TdLab of the Swiss Federal Institute of Teachnology Zurich can be found at: http://www.uns.ethz.ch/translab/cs_former (e.g. including case studies about sustainable urban development, agriculture, mobility, water management, river restoration, energy, etc.).
- Case studies, e.g. about demography and supply systems, health, housing, or fish populations, are described in Chapter III: Integration strategies – Examples of comprehensive concepts in research practice in Bergmann et al. (2012) (see “Sources and links”).
- Examples of transdisciplinary case studies from Swiss universities, published in GAIA – Ecological perspectives for science and society, 2014, Volume 3:
Situatat e duhura për këtë metodë
Transdisciplinary case studies are appropriate for every context, which is complex and uncertain, addresses a social and/or environmental challenge without linear solutions and involves the perspectives of various stakeholders.
Pikat e forta të metodës
- Td case studies are holistic, interdisciplinary, participative and socially integrative.
- Students are challenged in systemic thinking and applying their previous learned knowledge in practice.
- Students can contribute to solving societal sustainability problems.
- High level of learning opportunities among all participants.
- Students learn to integrate knowledge and perspectives from different stakeholders and sources
- Students learn to appreciate practitioners’ knowledge as being equally valuable to scientific knowledge
- Students learn to work in teams and to commonly develop and negotiate objectives and development processes.
- Students learn to cope with complex systems and unforeseen developments.
- Students learn to develop scientifically-based outcomes that are socially relevant and applicable.
Pikat e dobëta të metodës
- Requires good preparation and knowledge about transdisciplinary research, the specific case context and the applied methods. It would even be beneficial to participate in a transdisciplinary research project before teaching a td case study.
- It is time intensive.
- Requires highly motivated students (not a weakness, but a certain risk for the educator).
- Outcomes are not predictable.
Assessment / evaluation
Besides a project report and presentation, a rubric is proposed to assess the work of the students. Following criteria are recommended for assessment, but others can be added as well:
- Understanding the system
- Foresighted thinking
- Interpersonal competences – among students
- Interpersonal competences – among societal stakeholders
- Creativity and improvement
- Scientific work
- Comprehensibility of the project report
- Structure and layout of the report
- Oral presentation.
The example for the rubric can be found in the section: necessary materials.

Additionally a learning portfolio is recommended to better analyse if the students have understood the approach. The students hereby have to reflect their personal work and experience with the case study (i.e. what are the most important findings, what questions arise, are there difficulties in understanding and applying the approach, concluding reflection and resume). The learning portfolio is submitted at the end of the course. The lecturer can thus assess the learning process and learning success of the students.
Burime dhe lidhje


Bergmann, M., Jahn, T., Knobloch, T., Krohn, W., Pohl, C., Schramm, E. (2012) Methods for Transdisciplinary Research – A Primer for Practice. Campus Verlag GmbH, Frankfurt.


Jahn, T., Bergmann, M., Keil, F. (2012) Transdisciplinarity: Between mainstreaming and marginalization. Ecological Economics, 79, 1-10.


Pohl, C., Hirsch Hadorn, G. (2007) Principles for Designing Transdisciplinary Research: Proposed by the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences. oekom, Munich.


Scholz, R.W., Lang, D.J., Wiek, A., Water, A.I., Stauffacher, M. (2006) Transdisciplinary case studies as a means for sustainability learning – Historical framework and theory. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 7(3), 226-251.


Scholz, R.W., Marks, D., (2001) Learning about transdisciplinarity: where are we? Where have we been? Where should we go?. In: Thompson Klein, J., Grossenbacher-Mansuy, W., Häberli, R., Bill, A., Scholz, R.W., Welti, M. (eds.) Transdisciplinarity: joint problem solving among science, technology, and society: an effective way for managing complexity. Basel: Birkhäuser, 236-252.


Scholz, R.W., Tietje, O. (2002) Embedded Case Study Methods, Integrating Quantitative and Qualitative Knowledge. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, USA.


Steiner, G., Posch, A. (2006) Higher education for sustainability by means of transdisciplinary case studies: an innovatie approach for solving complex, real-world problems. Journal of Cleaner Production, 14, 877-890.


Further resources

Network for Transdisciplinary Research (td-net), containing a good overview about transdisciplinary research (i.e. publishing recommended reading in inter- and transdisciplinary research): http://www.transdisciplinarity.ch/e/

Online lecture about “Mixing methods in transdisciplinary research” by Uli Vilsmaier and Matthias Bergmann (Leuphana University of Lüneburg): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfyqX8u7fpY

ETH-NSSI Transdisciplinarity Laboratory (TdLab): http://www.uns.ethz.ch/translab/

Financuar nga
This teaching resource, realised within the project ConSus, has been funded with the support of the TEMPUS of the European Union. The contents reflect the views of the authors, and the European Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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Marlene Mader
This teaching resource is allocated to following University:
LEUPHANA - University of Lüneburg
Leuphana University of Lüneburg


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