Teaching and learning strategies – and ESD

Posted in: Comment, New Publications, News and Updates

This is part of a message sent by UCU about the publication of the 2012 Green League Table ...

"We are particularly concerned about the slow pace of change on education for sustainable development.  Only a third of institutions have integrated it into their teaching and learning strategies.  This compares to polls that show 70% of students want greener degrees [1].  Unless urgent action is taken to address this we will not have the skills base to move to a low carbon economy in the UK."

... which begs (at least) three questions:

  • does the crude methodology of the green league tell us anything worthwhile about what's being taught / learned?
  • what has ESD to do with the economy – low carbon or other?    (or with greener degrees?)
  • do teaching and learning strategies determine what gets learned by students?
  • ...

The assumption in the UCU statement is that the UK's low-carbon skills base depends on whether ESD features in an institution's teaching and learning strategy.  If this were all that's necessary, I'd have taken up golf ages ago.  However, it isn't; rather, it depends on what students learn when exposed by expert academics to the inter-play of knowledge, theory, cutting edge research, and post-normal workplace practices, in relation to their chosen and other necessary disciplines.  Happily, UK universities have rather a lot of academics who can lay on such carefully-constructed experiences.

A very pertinent question is what does ESD contribute to all this?  Rather than think that it's only ESD that matters, it would be better to articulate carefully just what contribution it can make, and what value it can add.


[1] What the NUS research report said was:

"Over two thirds of 2011 first and second-year respondents (66.6% and 70.3% respectively), as in 2010 (70%), believe that sustainability should be covered by their university".

This was a summary of answers to questions of the form: Is sustainable development something which universities should actively incorporate and promote?

Posted in: Comment, New Publications, News and Updates


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