International Learning Partners in Urban Climate and Sustainability Field Studies

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Meg Holden, Urban Studies/Department of Geography

Project team: Robin Chang, Faculty of Spatial Planning, TU Dortmund, Germany, and Rebecca Gunderson, research assistant

Timeframe: January 2017 to January 2018

Funding: $6,000  

Courses addressed:

  • GEOG 449 – City and Environment
  • GEOG 497 – International Field School
  • URB 694 – Directed Readings

Final Report: View Meg Holden's final report (PDF) and Resilience Report (PDF)

Description: This TLDG project will pair 30 undergraduate students, 15 at SFU and 15 at TU-Dortmund, all engaged in international field courses related to urban climate and sustainability policy. The Canadian-German international learning pairs will be introduced virtually in the Canvas learning management system and will engage in a semi-structured process of peer-to-peer learning, pairwise reflection, and relationship building, prompted by questions posed by their instructor. These pairs will also meet in person and will engage in field study and workshopping of case research in both Canada and Germany.

This study is designed to:

  • Understand the success qualities or building blocks within this experimental international field exchange course
  • Investigate the relative importance and qualities of instructor-student compared to peer-peer learning that students attribute to: formal course content compared to informal peer relationship sharing with learning partner
  • Characterize the specific qualities of learning by SFU students specifically attributable to their experiential learning in an international context

Questions addressed:

  • What learning do student pairs attribute specifically to their pairwise relationship with their peer, separate from learning they attribute to course materials or learning offered by the instructor?
  • What learning do student pairs attribute directly and specifically to experiential learning in international context?
  • What are the key components of learning about urban resilience in municipal contexts that student learning pairs report?

Knowledge sharing: SFU International, Urban Studies steering committee, and we intend to prepare the results of our analysis for presentation to colleagues in urban planning education when our analysis has been completed.

Chang, R., Holden, M., Gunderson, R., & Lamker, C. (2018, July). Re-focusing on sustainable and adaptive planning through experiential and social learning in alternative classroom formats. Presentation at the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP) Annual Congress, Gothenburg, Sweden.

Chang, R., Holden, M., Gunderson, R., & Lamker, C. (July 2018). Resilience and pedagogy: learning from international field studies in urban resilience in Canada and Germany. Presentation at the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP) 2018 Annual Congress, Gothenburg University, Gothenburg, Sweden.

Holden, M. (2017, December 3). New report on learning about urban resilience [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Holden, M., Chang, R., & Gunderson, R. (2019). Resilience and pedagogy: Learning from international field studies in urban resilience in Canada and Germany. Cities and the Environment, 12(1), 1-26.

Technische Universität Dortmund. (2017, December 8). Researching urban resilience and planning II- Resonance of urban resilience in the Ruhr region [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Simon Fraser University Department of Geography. (2017). Experiential learning- GEOG 497/URB 694. Retrieved from 

Simon Fraser University's Geography and Urban Studies Field School in Rhine-Ruhr, Germany. (2017). Field school travel diary [Blog]. Retrieved from

Simon Fraser University Urban Studies Program. (2017, July 3). International field school in Rhine-Ruhr region [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Keywords: International field exchange; exchange students; pen pals; peer learning; experiential learning; Canvas; online discussion; study abroad; Urban resilience; field schools; experiential education; international exchange; social learning; environmental studies; planning studies