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Audio-Narrative Production As a Tool for Enhancing Students' Ability to Contextualize and Address Sustainability-Related Problems
  • Ari Epstein
Ari Epstein
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Corresponding Author:awe@alum.mit.edu

Author Profile


College students in STEM fields generally receive rigorous training in problem-solving, but often that training focuses primarily on the technical aspects of problems, ignoring or minimizing the human context in which those problems arise and the impacts on people who will be affected by the solutions. Terrascope, a sustainability-oriented learning community for first-year undergraduates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) works to engage students in a more holistic process of identifying and addressing problems. Here we describe one component of the Terrascope program: Terrascope Radio, a class in which science and engineering students change gears from technical problem-solving to focus on producing audio stories. In the process, they acquire a richer and broader understanding of the context and implications of their own more technical work. Student outcomes include: Increased focus on understanding and addressing the needs and priorities of the people affected by sustainability-related problems. Engagement in seeking out multiple perspectives on complex sustainability-related issues. Improved skills in communicating scientific and technical information. Enhanced respect for the role of communication in technical and scientific practice. Enhanced ability to collaborate with a diverse group on creative projects; enhanced general teamwork skills. Experience adapting on the fly to changing conditions and priorities within a project. Increased ability and willingness to reach out to expert sources of information. Increased competence in conducting interviews and in being interviewed, both inside and outside the audio-production context.