“We don’t have to, the other guys do it” – modelling EfS in programmes

Posted on August 26, 2008

0


Most people we talk with are very happy to include Education for Sustainability in their programmes, perhaps in part due to our Sustainable Practitioner approach. It’s the next step that gets difficult – integrating EfS into individual courses. Here’s a typical response: “Oh yes, that’s very important to us, the hardware people have got it covered”. The exact opposite comes from the hardware people: “Yes we have that in our degree, doesn’t really apply to hardware but the software people are on to it”.

It seems sustainability is a good thing when it’s in someone else’s course. We’re in danger of it falling between the cracks. There are cases though, where including sustainability does seem a bit of a stretch. We hear all the time “I teach algorithms – it’s completely abstract- surely I don’t have to put it in there”. And, while we can see opportunities for case studies and context, in some occasions, we agree with these people.

So, how much and where? Anna and I have been exploring a simple model to help departments target their integration of EfS.

To develop the model we’ve talked with people from some departments to classify every course according to the nature of EfS integration. All these programmes have already worked to identify a statement of sustainable practitioner and how this is articulated in a graduate profile.

This first programme has recently been re-written and had learning outcomes added to most courses that makes sustainability explicit

Programme A

Is there

There, but not explicit

Maybe should be

Whole course

Professional/Integrated

7

Learning Outcome

8

Contextual

2

4

Not really applicable

3

This second programme has focussed on the graduate profile but is yet to translate this to learning outcomes. They have made a decision not to have a “sustainability 101”.

Programme B

Is there

There, but not explicit

Maybe should be

Whole course

Professional/Integrated

3

2

1

Learning Outcome

10

Contextual

7

Not really applicable

3

This third programme has decided to integrate sustainability and to have a “sustainability 101 and 301”.

Programme C

Is there

There, but not explicit

Maybe should be

Whole course

2

Professional/Integrated

3

4

Learning Outcome

7

3

1

Contextual

1

Not really applicable

1

So, what use is this?

1. The categories seem useful in describing the types of integration. We’ll continue to develop these.

2. The “not really applicable” accounts for 5-10% of courses.

3. The model is good for identifying courses that should really have learning outcomes (eg those which call for application of knowledge), and those for which sustainability could provide some context for learning.

4. The action plan (what do we do now?) for these categories are quite different, as are the inherent risks. Where there is a specific learning outcome required, the next task is obvious (write one) and then the management strategies are the same for “normal teaching” – course planning to deliver those outputs and moderation etc to ensure it happens. The plan for “context” courses is quite different – it could easily not happen.

All in all, a useful exercise, we’ll continue down this track.

Advertisements