Education Research

Education Research 2017-05-02T15:07:56+00:00

This is where my teaching and research overlap: what, how and why ‘water people’ – students, policy makers, trades people – learn the way they do.

See Articles and Publications

Student Research Opportunity

Trades and efficiency (anytime start).  The potentially funded research requires an analysis of existing data on ‘blue builders’ and ‘green plumbers’ — residential builders and plumbers who subscribe to water efficiency practices — using Terror Management Theory as an analytical framework. If you are interested in pursuing this research as part of a graduate degree, either our MES or MRP program options, please contact me directly at sewolfe@uwaterloo.ca

1. Thinking about Water: What, why and how we teach to engage the next generation of interdisciplinary water leaders. (completed)

Decision-making processes around water resources are becoming ever more complex as populations grow and as the climate changes. Collaborative, integrated decision-making processes are essential to viable water resource management. Given the integrated, cross-disciplinary nature of these decisions – including hydrology, engineering, political science, economics, sociology and ecology – students need content knowledge and a range of diverse skills to work in this field.  My argument is that students learn best through ‘solutions-based education’ using “high impact educational practices”[1] including collaborative relationships, global learning and exposure to diverse perspectives.

We are interested in best practices for interdisciplinary water education at the graduate level.  The purpose of this research and workshop is to:

  1. Assess the ‘lessons learned’ from other international graduate-level water programs and curriculum.
  2. Review the fundamentals (advantages; challenges) of multidisciplinary vs. interdisciplinary education and pedagogy at a graduate level.
  3. Identify the themes and essential literatures to capture and exemplify water-related content
  4. Articulate learning objectives and outcomes for a one-semester, trans- or inter-disciplinary graduate course open to all UW/WI students.
  5. Determine specific assignments and evaluation mechanisms to assess whether students have met the course learning objectives.

The Water Institute grant allows me to conduct pedagogical research – with assistance from the Centre for Teaching Excellence – and then facilitate a 2-day workshop with specific tasks and measurable outcomes. A small and targeted group will be invited to participate based on pedagogical, applied and thematic expertise. For example, the participant list includes university pedagogy and interdisciplinary education experts, disciplinary experts in the fields of science, engineering, math/computing, health, arts and environment; representatives from industry and government, as well as international speakers who can offer ‘lessons learned’ about interdisciplinary water education and programming.

The intent would be to explore the way in which research and teaching can be used to be mutually reinforcing and offer opportunities for collaborative learning in both research and teaching.  The focus and discussion will 1) review the front edge of water research across WI expertise areas, 2) assess current pedagogical research related to interdisciplinary water education, 3) identify priority thematic content across disciplines, students’ skill requirements and best practices in graduate level teaching and evaluation. The framework could be offered as part of the WI graduate curriculum and as part of an expanded water education mandate to train new scholars and practitioners to address emerging water management challenges.


[1] Kuh, George D. (2008) High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter. AAC&U


2. Evaluating the Green Plumbers training program and its implications for Canadian water policies (completed)

Professional plumbers play an essential role in the implementation of water efficiency. If North America is to achieve high water efficiency standards and more ambitious plumbing codes, plumbers will need to be actively included in the water efficiency discussion. Repositioning the industry will required a cultural shift because the plumbing community has been mostly ignored in discussions of the larger environmental agenda and priorities. This repositioning will require substantial rethinking and retraining. New knowledge will need to be transmitted about emerging water efficient technologies, public policies and practices, as well as the rationale for use in residential and Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional (ICI) sectors.

The Green Plumbers Program (GPP) initiated this knowledge transfer process. Originating in Australia and expanded to the United States, the GPP is a national training and accreditation program for professional plumbers. Their focus has been on upgrading skills and awareness of water efficiency, conservation, and the professional plumbers’ roles in the contemporary environmental context. In this paper we report on the efficacy of the GPP’s curriculum and the process of transferring explicit water efficiency knowledge. Semi-structured interviews and a survey were used to gather the data. We considered how the program participants incorporated the GPP curriculum into their ‘day-to-day’ practices and operations post-certification. We also investigated participants’ motivating factors and cross-referenced these findings to their overall assessment of the program. Recommendations focus on how the GPP can best influence and contribute to a more comprehensive water efficiency agenda.