Everything cannot be equal: Ranking priorities and revealing worldviews to guide watershed management

Bethany Brooke Cutts

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Water is an integrating natural resource that connects ecosystems, economies, and societies. In large watersheds, the mismatch between environmental systems and political boundaries means that finding ways to work together is essential to make progress toward identifying shared water management goals and taking action toward them. In this lesson, students rank and explain their priorities for managing a watershed using a social science method called Q-sort. This process reveals similarities and differences among the students’ own understandings of sustainability priorities, which can lead to articulating their operational definitions of sustainability. The goal is for students to uncover the roles that their own beliefs, experiences and motivations play in shaping their perspectives about what should be done. Materials to complete the activity using the Upper Mississippi River Basin as a case study are provided. After completing the activity, students should be able to (1) identify the (parts of) worldviews of others and views of sustainability; (2) recognize ways that values, beliefs, and experiences shape how individuals interpret and organize information to form priorities; (3) explain why stakeholders committed to the same goal prioritize different actions; and (4) articulate their own views and personal definition of sustainability (in the water resource context).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLearner-Centered Teaching Activities for Environmental and Sustainability Studies
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9783319285436
ISBN (Print)9783319285412
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Environmental priorities
  • Learner-centered teaching
  • Q-sort
  • Watershed management
  • Worldviews

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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