The Sustainable practitioner A workshop for STEM subjects on Sustainable Development The Higher Education Academy Session 4: Teaching Approaches and Resources
Introduction • Having established the relevance of Sustainable Development to STEM we now consider where and how to teach it • As well as potentially addressing the needs to teach such material, there are other potential benefits to SD material
E.G. Lack of relevance; Overfull curricula; Fear of indoctrination; Attitudes – own, colleagues; Write down ONE barrier (from above or your own); Swap your objection with your neighbour– and attempt to address their objection; Report back any objections that seem insurmountable. How could you teach S.D.? Barriers/objections to Embedding S.D.
The two extremes This could be as a specialist degree (e.g. Masters) or elective module offered across a range of programmes Embedding can also include as part of an assessment e.g. as a honours stage project topic
Pros and Cons of the two approaches • Apart from specialist degree programmes, most likely to either • Offer a module on sustainable development related content • Pros • The SD material is explicit • Offers more opportunities for inter-disciplinary content • Allows for use across a range of degree programmes • Cons • The SD material may be perceived as not relevant (or avoided if an option) • Difficulty in getting a department to take a lead on this sort of programme • Lack of fit with degree programmes Learning Outcomes
Pros and Cons of the two approaches • Apart from specialist degree programmes, most likely to either 2. Embed Sustainable Development material within other modules • Pros • The SD material can be motivated by the subject specific content around it • Clearly relevant to students within the context of the discipline • Can be aligned with Learning Outcomes • Cons • May be perceived as an add on • May not be noticed • Difficultly to get input from outside of the home department
Squaring the circle • One way to address the problems noted above to the teaching of legal, social, ethical and professional (LSEP) issues AND develop an understanding of Sustainable Development • focus on the relevance and application of these topics to computing students and their future careers • Using practical examples and case studies to motivate the topics. • Map onto the themes of Sustainable Development, and so bringing these together a potentially effective way to deliver the desired learning outcomes is through real world examples • illustrating the relevance of these to computing, and conversely, demonstrating the potential of computing to address many of these issues and problems.
CASE STUDY OF EMBEDDING SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN COMPUTING TEACHING • Level 4 Module (first year core): 170+students per year • Includes IT, Professional Skills (required to include LSEP) • Link topics such as code efficiency and hardware selection and optimisation with low carbon • Use of cloud computing to replace more traditional infrastructure – though recognising the (huge) infrastructure needed for the cloud itself • Social aspects can be motivated through the digital divide and the role of social networking in society (positive and negative)
Impact: Reviewing evidence over 3 years • student engagement with the module seems to have improved • Students appear to have greater recognition of the relevance of the LSEP material to their future careers. • The material appears to have improved the engagement of the female students - responding to the social aspects more strongly than their male counterparts as illustrated below.
Figures showing assessments results: performance split between the IT content, LSEP, and combined material taught under the auspices of SD
Case Studies and Project topics • Sustainable Development subjects can make good topics for case studies or project topics – whether group projects or individual topics • They offer opportunities for students from a range of disciplines to work together and so could fit into any cross-department or inter-degree group projects
Interpretation • The overall profiles for the material taught to 3 different cohorts illustrates an overall repeating pattern • female students did better than male students in LSEP in 2 of the 3 years (not 2010/11 though very close), but significantly better in the SD material over all 3 cohorts • generally a higher mark in IT material than LSEP • but significantly higher mark in Sustainable Development than the other two.
Assessment • Whilst individual decisions on assessment are best left to module managers and programme leaders, there are some principles worth reflecting on • For successful engagement with students, including the Sustainable Development material within the assessment regime is necessary • To aid with external recognition (e.g. accreditation) of the content, explicit learning outcomes should be linked directly to the topics • However, this material can come under more generic social, ethical and legal issues where that is already specified in learning outcomes (whether at the programme or module level)
Resources for teaching SD • There are a number of sites that offer materials for teaching SD • Some are discipline specific, others are more general • See the following for some examples of sites that include topics, and ideas or in some cases actual teaching resources
Learning Materials General Resource Sites • OSIER (Open Sustainability in Education Resource) • Jorum • youtube • Creative Commons • OER Commons • Open Courseware Consortium iTunes • If you have iTunes you can search on iTunes U for Sustainable Development – there are numerous resources covering a range of disciplines Subject Specific • SustainablIT (Computer Science and some general material)
HEA resources • Main HEA ESD Site • HEA EvidenceNET • The old Subject Centres (with archived content) • Bioscience • Engineering • Geography, Earth and Environmental Science • Information and Computer Sciences • Materials • Maths, Stats & OR • Physical Sciences • Psychology
Session Summary • This session has explored some of the many resources that are available to aid in the teaching of Sustainable Development. • Sustainable Development can offer ways to motivate LSEP material within discipline based teaching • The evidence from some evaluations is that this context can improve the engagement with some students – in particular with female students in the case of the example from Computer Science.