Developing graduates who can address 21st century problems

This blog is by way of an invitation for anyone interested in developing sustainability issues in programmes and modules to attend a workshop on 9th March 2016 at 12.30 run by the Education for Sustainable Development Working Group . Contact Nick Bunyan, nbunyan@liv.ac.uk in the Centre for Lifelong Learning for more details or just book on to the event.

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is a university responsibility.

Last year QAA published a framework for Education for Sustainable Development (2014) that is meant to guide UK universities towards the development of curricula that meet HEFCE’s vision:

“Within the next 10 years, the higher education sector in this country will be recognised as a major contributor to society’s efforts to achieve sustainability – through the skills and knowledge that its graduates learn and put into practice.”

This prompted work to develop a University of Liverpool Education for Sustainability approach led by the ESD Working Group.

An interdisciplinary approach to ESD

Some of the most exciting work for ESD has been done by a group of staff from across all three Faculties sponsored by Facilities Management Sustainability Team and enthusiastically supported by The Green Guild. Putting our university strategy into action, The Guild hosted an event at which students from three different disciplines came together to present their work from modules focusing on environment and using the campus as a city in microcosm.

The project arose out of changes needed to a second year Geography and Planning module resulting from a significant increase in numbers, mainly from XJTLU students to the programme (95 Chinese; 175 total), a desire to promote good group work and interdisciplinary and intercultural working, and a need to make the course more engaged with the real world. The assignment required students to respond to a brief from Facilities Management (the client) for proposals for Greening The Campus.

The module brings together students and staff and students from disciplines and departments from across all three faculties.

green space task group
The Green Space Task Group

Poster Presentations

The module culminated in a poster presentation event where the interdisciplinary and internationally mixed student groups presented their ideas, sharing these with fellow students and members of staff.

poster presentations 2
Syd Cottle, Head of Estates Management, was excited by the ideas.
What did students learn?

The module ended in December so work is currently being marked. However, from talking to students on the 16th December this is what we think they learned:

  • Student groups found working on a real world problem to be engaging and a welcome addition to lectures and tutorials.
  • They valued working in interdisciplinary teams and most groups very effectively used the variety of skills and abilities of their groups to complete the tasks.
  • They valued working in intercultural groups and used their different cultural experiences. Many groups, for example, compared and contrasted the XJTLU campus with the Liverpool campus in their analysis and design proposals.
  • A number of students described how much they valued being given the opportunity to use their creative skills. For example, some engineering students described the benefits of working with environmental scientists to think about the nature of the problem and potential solutions a little different to ways they are normally taught to solve problems.
  • Many groups commented on the employability benefits of working with, and presenting their ideas to an external client.

This blog is by way of an invitation for anyone interested in developing sustainability issues in programmes and modules to attend a workshop on 9th March 2016 at 12.30 run by the Education for Sustainable Development Working Group . Contact Nick Bunyan, nbunyan@liv.ac.uk in the Centre for Lifelong Learning for more details or just book on to the event.

Anne Qualter and Nick Bunyan and behalf of the ESD working group.

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