Teaching and Learning Strategies for Sustainable Development: Volume 19

Cover of Teaching and Learning Strategies for Sustainable Development
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Table of contents

(18 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xii
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Part I: Pedagogical Approaches

Abstract

One of the most important issues plaguing our planet is the depletion of natural resources and climate change, creating new disasters, and global challenges. The international community has expressed its anguish and concern for these problems through several international forums and treaties. As a response, Education for Sustainable Development is a program that aims to educate students on these issues. Teaching sustainability to young graduates needs to be holistic and pluralistic in nature. Discourses and modules on sustainability help in making them sustainability conscious which will enhance the competencies of people and help them to live and act in a more sustainable way. This book has several chapters written by academics across the globe who have spoken about their experience of incorporating sustainability into their curriculum and adopting various pedagogical approach that has helped their students to learn and understand the subject. Sustainability has been part of the teaching and learning in general, and as part of management, engineering, medical, and design courses, for instance. This book helps us to understand how such teaching and learning strategies can be made more effective for students.

Abstract

This chapter provides a theoretical framework that links ecojustice education to concepts of eco-intelligence and collective social intelligence. This theoretical framework informs the creation of innovative university academies that highlight sustainability and the revitalization of the cultural commons. The culture commons or those intergenerational face-to-face practices are evident in all communities worldwide. These practices include craft knowledge, the knowledge of growing, cultivating and preparing food, medicinal practices, and other forms of knowledge that are largely non-monetized and do not contribute to environmental degradation. Academies are sustained multiday events that incorporate the knowledge and work of activists, community members, faculty, and students who come together for the purpose of providing a platform for the discussion and resolution of critical environmental issues. Two examples are provided and details about the construction and execution of these events are provided.

Abstract

This chapter is based on the work of Professor Charles Engel who, sadly, passed away early in 2019. Some 20 years ago, Professor Engel was advocating that higher education should take a lead in remediating global challenges, particularly those of sustainability. He took a broad view of the concept of “sustainability,” based largely on the Brundtland (1987) view of global challenges. Engel proposed that successful approaches to address the complex problems of sustainability should be explored across disciplinary boundaries. The University of Manchester developed a series of course modules focusing on these major challenges, largely run on interdisciplinary lines. Initially the concept was explored across science and engineering, with the support of the Royal Academy of Engineering. Charles Engel, a leading authority on its use, advised using Problem-Based Learning as a means of addressing the wicked problems in interdisciplinary groups. The pilot modules were extensively evaluated and reported. Since then the course units have developed and diversified, with extension to other schools, universities, countries, and to postgraduate courses. This transformative concept has also been explored in hybrid online format. The current chapter will re-introduce some of the original ideas and bring together the many threads that have emerged.

Abstract

The sustainable development goals (SDGs) were introduced by the United Nations in 2016 to replace the millennium development goals (MDGs). This chapter examines the impact of integrating these goals within a design challenge, as part of a level 3 undergraduate degree module. Design Values, Issues and Ethics is an expansive module, aiming to broaden the students’ discipline focus and allow them to expand their learning within a new landscape. This module promotes the utilization of nature-based intelligences to establish solutions to a community’s basic need to survive and thrive. The SDGs were integrated through embedding them as part of a future-building scenario, supported by a series of exercises and seminars. Students were then asked to reflect on how the SDGs had impacted their design process, and to consider ethical and value dimensions. These reflections were used to analyze the effectiveness of the SDGs as key principles for an ethical design intention. Integrating the SDGs within the design curriculum has served to promote a connectivity of systems that were largely separated prior to this pilot.

Abstract

There is a growing demand in industry for engineering graduates who can think “sustainably.” However, there are many barriers to developing assessment that fosters sustainability learning in engineering classrooms. There is no consensus on the definition of sustainability and its key competencies and teaching resources are limited.

Staff are unclear about what to teach, how to teach, and how to assess learning. Assessment is an integral part of teaching and learning and should be planned from the earliest stages, but this is rarely done. Engineering relies heavily on traditional assessments such as tests and examinations, but these are known to encourage surface learning. Sustainability is complex, multidisciplinary, and needs context, which requires higher-order thinking characteristic of deep learning.

Current assessment types for sustainability include examinations, case study, concept maps, and project-based learning. However, more research is needed to develop best practice assessments. Recommendations for teaching approach are to use a rigorous approach to instructional design, use a systems approach, and use a teaching model that promotes deep learning, incorporates context, and promotes alignment of learning objectives and assessment. Community-oriented assessments are recommended that feature the interdisciplinarity and complexity of sustainability and promote higher-order thinking.

Abstract

The Anthropocene is commonly explained as a current epoch that began when human activities started bearing a major impact on the natural world. As an area of study, it has a logical disciplinary home, addressed widely in geology (Gibbard & Walker, 2014). However, it is also gaining traction in other disciplines, especially the social sciences (Bonneuil & Fressoz, 2017). In most accounts, it involves examining how the relationship between humans and the planet has changed and what can be done to monitor the balance.

Sustainability represents a more familiar challenge and discussion area in higher education. Nevertheless, two areas of questioning about it endure: what is sustainability and should students be taught about it? One established account is the “three-pillar model” which presents sustainability as an intersection of economic, social, and environmental issues (Brundtland Report, 1987). There are, however, different views as to how sustainability curriculum change should be implemented (Hopkinson, Hughes, & Layer, 2008; Stubbs & Schapper, 2011) but students appear to want sustainability better represented in their institutions (Drayson, Bone, Agombar, & Kemp, 2013).

This chapter considers whether the relatively recent focus on the Anthropocene can help us develop sustainability teaching in higher education. My project draws on desk-based research, comprising a review of academic sources on the Anthropocene and on sustainability, as well as teaching materials on these areas. The author also draws on five conversations with staff involved in teaching and researching the Anthropocene.

The outcomes point to some support for further teaching about the Anthropocene and in a way which links to sustainability, and the author argues that as a concept and proposition, the Anthropocene has important potential for informing future sustainability teaching. However, the relationship between the Anthropocene and sustainability needs exploring further in follow-up research with both staff and learners.

Abstract

This chapter argues that Deliberative Dialogues (DDs) are a form of Education for Sustainable Development, whose design, process focus, wide-tent approach, and interdisciplinarity align with best democratic practices. DDs are an effective method for bridging seemingly opposing forces in academia and the larger society: Narrow expertise versus interdisciplinarity, individual orientation versus collaboration, polarization and prioritization of majority/privileged voice versus inclusivity and search for common ground. This chapter will define and describe deliberation and DDs as useful for a wide range of disciplines, offer models, explore basic components, and analyze the author’s participant researcher experience in crafting and facilitating DDs in 35 classes across multiple disciplines in a small private university. The chapter will look at the planning process, the logistics of running the DD, post-DD outcomes, and provide questions and suggestions for future enhancements. A particular kind of DD will be explored, the Syllabus Deliberation method (also known as the negotiated or process syllabus). Finally, the chapter will articulate findings related to the process of preparing for the deliberations, ways in which scaffolded activities improved, relationship between the dialogues and course curriculum, evolution of faculty and researcher-facilitator roles, challenges, and successes. Students’ and faculty’s perceptions of some outcomes are also included.

Abstract

The Whole Institution Approach is part of UNESCO’s Education for Sustainable Development program. This chapter explores what a “Whole Institution Approach” is and what it translates to in different higher education institutions around the world. This chapter provides background information to understand the complexity of sustainable development in higher education and how universities engage with the United Nations Agenda 2030. This chapter is based on an autumn 2018 International Association of Universities qualitative study, which looked at how the sustainable development goals (SDGs) are changing the dynamics of universities. To illustrate the findings, this chapter presents five case studies highlighting different approaches to integrating sustainable development into the whole institution. This chapter shows that there is no one-size-fits-all approach; each university engages with sustainable development and the SDGs in its own way. Finally, this chapter explains what the 2030 Agenda can mean for higher education institutions and more specifically Whole Institution Approaches.

Abstract

In the UK, Masters level discipline-specific courses in sustainability integrate modules on the social, economic, and environmental issues of sustainable development. The postgraduate faculty teaching on these courses and the student cohorts enrolling in such courses bring varying attitudes, experiences, and beliefs to the ecological and anthropological discourses and practices about sustainable development. Existing studies of education for sustainable development (ESD) have identified strengths and weaknesses in the knowledge and attitudes of students and faculty although few studies have focused on postgraduate cohorts and fewer still have attempted to compare and contrast students and lecturers. This mixed method case study analyses findings from data collected (2016–2017) from student surveys (n = 121) and semi-structured interviews with faculty (n = 21) recruited from multiple university departments, centers, and programs (n = 12) to identify prevailing anthropocentric and eco-centric ideas and rationales about sustainable development and ESD. Findings suggest a strong orientation to mainstream sustainable development in both groups but analysis identifies reasons for resisting a focus on extremes of “deep green” or “green wash” approaches. In addition, prevailing belief in academic neutrality, institutional and disciplinary factors, student pragmatism, and other drivers are highlighted. The study concludes by identifying potential paths from prevailing (experiential) education in sustainable development to more transformational approaches.

Part II: Innovative Case Studies

Abstract

Humans have immense impact on our environment and open and ongoing conversations are needed to generate informed actions toward sustainability. A sustainable future must grow from a changed mindset, one of critical thinking, problem-solving, and continuous learning and active practice. In higher education we are uniquely placed to share with students a sustainability-infused curriculum toward such a changed mindset. At Brookhaven College faculty self-selected to participate in a Teaching Sustainability Mini-Pilot during Fall semester 2018. The innovation was initiated to encourage students to become mindful of sustainability, inspired to get involved in sustainability efforts, and to become immersed in satisfactory real-world learning.

Abstract

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 aimed at ensuring an inclusive, equitable, quality education, and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. However, this may not be effectively realized, as this chapter demonstrates, through formal learning or education alone. Rather, an adoption of non-formal and informal learning alongside formal learning is more likely to empower the general population to contribute toward the development of a sustainable society. This chapter therefore critically examines the concepts of lifelong learning and the learning society and suggests that community learning, or study circles, can be a promising institutional medium for the promotion of adult and lifelong learning. The rationale for establishing a study circle as a medium for lifelong learning is demonstrated through case studies from Zimbabwe and Sweden. This follows by comparing and contrasting the ways in which Sweden and Zimbabwe promote lifelong learning for all.

Abstract

In this study, we critically examine how students enrolled in a combined engineering and teacher education program given at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, understand the concept of sustainable development (SD) and the professional responsibilities of engineers versus teachers in contributing to this goal. A questionnaire was used to collect and analyze data based on five research questions: (1) How do students conceptualize the notion of SD? (2) What aspects of SD are students interested in? (3) Are there any gender differences in what aspects of SD students are interested in? (4) How do students perceive the roles and responsibilities of engineers versus teachers in contributing to SD? and (5) How confident are students in their abilities to address SD issues vocationally? The data indicated a conventional view of SD among the students; a clear interest in sustainability issues, especially for ecologically linked questions; a tendency to ascribe significant but differentiated responsibilities to engineers/teachers; and a low degree of confidence in their own ability to adequately address SD issues vocationally. The data also indicated differences between male and female students when looking at interest in different aspects of SD. Overall, female students were found to be slightly more interested in SD than the male students. This gender difference is larger in relation to social aspects than ecological or economic aspects. It is suggested that future sustainable development education needs a shift of focus from what separates female and male students to what unites them. The observed “confidence gap” that exists between stated degree of interest in, and perceived importance of, sustainability issues, suggests the potential for significant improvement of the design of the Master of Science in Engineering and in Education program (CL-program).

Abstract

Interdisciplinary approaches to sustainability curriculum and pedagogy remain a particular challenge internationally. This chapter shares insights from a 2016 attempt to establish a first-year undergraduate Design course with an interdisciplinary approach to sustainability education. A series of video dialogues between university and community-based sustainability experts was created to enable students to access understandings and research evidence about sustainability issues and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, through different disciplinary lenses. The video dialogues provided students with opportunities to learn reflexively through exposure to differing visions for sustainable development, including Indigenous perspectives. In doing so, the video dialogues provide material for critical, creative, and iterative design thinking. Drawing on feedback from students enrolled in the course, this chapter offers reflections about enhancing course design through using video dialogues to support students’ critical openness to addressing sustainability concerns.

Abstract

Over the last 30 years, the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada has advanced sustainable development on campus and created a culture of sustainability, with ambitious goals, and strong collaborative relationships. Launched in 2010, the Campus as a Living Laboratory (CLL) initiative utilizes the campus buildings and infrastructure as opportunities for research, teaching, and learning. Projects under the CLL bring together academic researchers, students, staff, and partners to demonstrate, test, research, and learn from new ideas for sustainable development. These projects range in scale from small and discrete educational or research projects, often led by students, to the design and construction of innovative buildings, with multiyear interdisciplinary research programs. CLL projects are opportunities for UBC students to engaged in applied research and learning that enhances their educational experience at the university, and may serve as models for other universities interested in expanding sustainable development on their campuses.

Name Index

Pages 241-248
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Subject Index

Pages 249-256
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Cover of Teaching and Learning Strategies for Sustainable Development
DOI
10.1108/S2055-3641202019
Publication date
2020-05-27
Book series
Innovations in Higher Education Teaching and Learning
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78973-640-3
eISBN
978-1-78973-639-7
Book series ISSN
2055-3641