Education plays an important role within the fields of spatial planning and landscape architecture, many professionals are trained in academic curricula. Academic education in these fields comprises a professional and an academic dimension. The BSc and MSc programs Landscape Architecture and Spatial Planning of Wageningen University educate a new generation of spatial planners and landscape architects and we need to teach them the methods to do planning, but also to pay attention to reflections on planning practices and to methods for scientific inquiry. One of the most important challenges is that the curricula increasingly needs to meet standardized academic criteria, without getting totally detached from planning and design practice. We need to educate a new generation of reflexive spatial planners that is not only able to make plans and organise planning processes, but also to objectify spatial planning practices and their own roles and responsibilities within these practices. Reflection can fuel and deepen debates about trends, deadlocks, drives and innovation. More in general, a thorough understanding of the positionality of all the knowledge and skills involved in planning and design can deepen the understanding of the desirable context- specific application of knowledge and skills and it creates the conditions for innovation and adaptation.

There are three ambitions that guided the transitions that we implemented in the educational program:

Firstly the idea that students need to learn how to deal with complex planning and design practices. The tasks of spatial planners and landscape architects have become more ambiguous and complex and this requires professionals with a wide range of skills, including the skills to interpret the context they work in. If planning and design theory is to be of real use to practitioners, it needs to address practice as it is actually encountered in the worlds of professionals. Therefore planning and design education needs to scrutinize actual planning praxis more often. This partly implies that we need to train student’s reflective skills by means of assignments on real life situations and on the social and political context in which they are expected to work. Not only should they be trained the application of pre- existing tools and methods, but they should be capable to devise their own methods, based upon a variety of useful methods offered.

Secondly planning and design education should open up for theories, concepts and approaches that fit the ambitions to become more reflexive. Examples are the insights in the constitution of knowledge, the relationships between experts and citizens and critical reflections on planning practices. These aspects all relate to a more critical stance towards knowledge in general and scientific knowledge in particular, especially in spatial governance.

Thirdly students should also learn to reflect on their individual actions and thoughts. They should learn to apply these skills to reflect on their position and how it effects the ways they see the field, its issues and possible solutions.

Based upon these ambitions we need to cross the boundaries between research, education and planning practices. We should build new forms of cooperation between the chair group and planning practitioners, both in research and education. Together with professionals, stakeholders and citizens we should develop new insights and knowledge. This helps to improve the societal impact of both research and educations and provides additional resources necessary for the development of new scientific knowledge.

Further reading:

Raoul Beunen, Kristof Van Assche & Martijn Duineveld: The importance of reflexivity in planning and design education

Raoul Beunen, Janneke Hagens, & Jeroen Neuvel, Reflections on planning practices: an important aspect of planning education.

Verbinden van onderwijs en praktijk

In het kader van de kenniswerkplaats gaan studenten in het kader van de diverse practica aan de slag met vraagstukken vanuit de praktijk. Provincies, gemeenten, belangenorganisaties en bedrijven kunnen opdrachtgever zijn. De studenten leren hoe de zaken lopen en leveren aan het eind hun inzichten aan de hand van een eindverslag. Meer info en voorbeelden op