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Criticality by stealth: embedding tools for sustainability in the business curriculum

Peter Redding (Cardiff School of Management, University of Wales Institute Cardiff, Cardiff, UK)
Molly Scott Cato (Cardiff School of Management, University of Wales Institute Cardiff, Cardiff, UK)

Journal of Global Responsibility

ISSN: 2041-2568

Article publication date: 27 September 2011




The purpose of this paper is to provide a case study which illustrates how specific skills can be embedded within an undergraduate business module thereby promoting wider criticality and an ethos of sustainability.


The paper analyses a pragmatic approach to redesigning a third‐year undergraduate module on twenty‐first century business topics such as globalisation and sustainability in which students acquire subject‐specific knowledge as well as the tools necessary for challenging current approaches. The redesign was guided by a series of emergent paradigms within the pedagogical literature, including student‐centred learning, emphasis on skills development and elements of the critical management perspective. “Questioning perceived wisdom” became the subtext for a series of activities linked to continuous assessment. Action research provided a basis for curricular development, and resulted in lectures with multiple viewpoints and a variety of weekly tasks including analyses of in‐class debates, surveys, and online discussions in small groups. The new structure also sought to address instrumental attitudes and student engagement. Rich qualitative and quantitative data were generated from the surveys, discussion groups, exam scripts and student feedback.


Data show that students responded well to those activities which implicitly reinforced the skills of “questioning” and judgement based on evidence. The increased engagement may be due to incentivisation of the chosen assessment structure and/or the heuristic nature of the varied activities.


This paper invites practitioners to shift away from “teaching” sustainability or criticality as an intellectual topic, and rather to concentrate more on creating those experiential opportunities where the student can develop the skills to question current dogma, whether neo‐liberalism or even environmental fundamentalism.



Redding, P. and Cato, M.S. (2011), "Criticality by stealth: embedding tools for sustainability in the business curriculum", Journal of Global Responsibility, Vol. 2 No. 2, pp. 222-238.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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