Citylab LA - Engaging Students with Sustainable Cities

The CITYLAB project aimed to enhance the quality of HEI’s in Latin America through problem based-learning. Problem-based learning is a proven innovative approach for introducing real-world problems in the education program with huge possibilities to transform the quality of learning and teaching. It is a kind of active, integrated and constructive learning method that works from a student centered approach and emphasizes on learning to learn and learning by doing, and breaks with traditional teaching methods such as ex-cathedra lectures. In order to introduce and spread PBL, it is required to work on specific problems through multidisciplinary approaches.

We worked on typical urban problems, such as urban planning, conservation, energy and climate change, poverty and crime, employment, etc. which are in general complex, and wicked problems that can only be properly addressed through multi-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary working methods. Moreover, the selection of urban problems, and the transdisciplinary approach which works directly with urban actors, provided the opportunity to structurally strengthen the relation between universities and cities and to make education more socially relevant.

The project departed from existing niches of problem based learning methods in curricula of Architecture, urban planning and urban engineering in 12 Latin American universities, and gradually  other faculty members such as sociology, economics, environmental engineering, law, criminology, administration and political sciences were involved in the the development of CITYLABS.

The CITYLABS are accredited modules that are integrated in the existing curricula and which work directly in partnership with selected cities on urban problems.

Teachers from different faculties were involved and trained to implement PBL methods in their CITYLAB module. The Global Network of United Cities and Local and Regional Governments acted as a linking partner between universities and cities (guiding invitations, identifying partners if necessary etc.).

At same time this project provided an added value for European HEIs to collaborate on:

  • PBL methods: the different universities involved have their own experience in PBL. Through this project they will were able to share best practice and innovations in PBL methods. An important side product of the proposal is the convergence in learning methods in Europe as European HEI also adapted their own teaching methods into PBL modules.
  • Pool of experts: European partners formed a pool of experts with LA colleagues in which they were able to collaborate in the differen CITLYAB student modules. This collaboration fostered the exchange of best practice in urban issues, but also increased cultural awareness of the participating staff members.
  • Relations with Latin American countries: the European partners had the opportunity to collaborate with 12 LA universities, which provided further opportunities for staff and student mobility.

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Citylab Project Coordinator

Prof. Dr. Ir. Tom Coppens