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Caring for future generations – engaging students with sustainable futures: Session abstracts

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Teaching sustainability and supporting career development through the medium of sustainable enterprise a case study in Biological Sciences – Dr Rose Murray (Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences)

The Bristol Skills Framework, which describes the key attributes all Bristol graduates should have, has continually emphasised the lack of enterprise in our degree programmes. Despite initial reactions that Biological Sciences aren’t “the right place” for enterprise, it has since become apparent that nurturing sustainable enterprise, which aims to tackle global environmental issues, is actually entirely appropriate for Biological Sciences and aligns with our programme aims and philosophy. Therefore, during the curriculum redesign of the first year of our degree programmes, we introduced an element of sustainable enterprise, implemented for the first time in the 2021-22 academic year. The activity involved student creation of a sustainable enterprise, incorporating formative tasks and group work, culminating in the presentation of ideas to external sustainable enterprise professionals with the best ideas winning prizes. In this presentation, we will portray this activity as a case study for teaching sustainability through enterprise, explaining how it was run and subsequently evaluated. We will also intend to provide insight from our evaluation as to:

  • how this task impacted student’s subject learning of sustainability;
  • student perceptions of the subject and their enthusiasm for studying biological sciences;
  • whether students’ outlooks on careers following graduation were altered.

We wish to share what we’ve learned through the implementation of this sustainable enterprise activity, because it is a task which has easy transference to a multitude of subject areas and intrinsic accessibility and flexibility to suit educational needs. We hope that this is an activity that could be widely adopted, not only to engage students with the planets as well as their own sustainable futures, but also to provide opportunities for group working, cohort building and formative assessment with clear incentives for student engagement.

How to embed Sustainable Development in the Curriculum – Carlos Shanka Boissy Diaz (BILT Student Fellow, Embedding sustainable development in the curriculum) 

What tools and knowledge should future leaders be taught? In what ways can students apply their experience at university to foster a better future? What are the links between sustainability and education? 

Sustainability is and should be for everyone. We must teach it in an inclusive and appropriate way. Our world is facing great issues that we, students, will have to approach. From climate change, social inequalities, and economic threats, to hunger, health, and education, building sustainable futures becomes a need. Throughout my three years studying and working at university, I have gathered thoughts and reflections to apply at the higher education sector, specifically at the University of Bristol. I will focus on why Education for Sustainable Development is so important, what challenges we are facing to embed into the curriculum, and potential next steps to follow at the institutional level. In my presentation I will also explore interdisciplinarity, further students demand, regarding ways of teaching. 

Leadership in the Wilderness: the task, the team and you – Professor Trevor Thompson (Professor of Primary Care Education in the Bristol Medical School) and Jeremy Le Fevre (Certified Mountain Leader and Leadership Development Coach)

We are all leaders, even if only of ourselves. Medical students will all, sooner or later, have major leadership roles, influencing the lives of hundreds if not thousands of patients and colleagues.  Understanding, at an early stage of their career, more about the transformative power of good leadership is hopefully a good thing.

Good leadership starts with good self-knowledge. Strengths, vulnerabilities and how we place ourselves within a team. To gain this elusive self-knowledge humans have often sought refuge in wild places, which is why we traveled to the relative wilderness of the Lake District in October 2021.

Here we had a chance to strip away some of our usual structures and catch up with ourselves in relationship to a supportive group and elemental Nature.

By the end of Wilderness our students had:

  • Understood more about the theory and established best practice in leadership.
  • Distilled from the literature the nature and value of their personal skill set.
  • Experience of presenting complex ideas to peers.
  • Gathered loads of experience in leadership through exercises in the field.
  • Enhanced their ability to give and receive constructive compassionate feedback.
  • Skilled up on how to reflect on experience.
  • Better understood they impact on a group.
  • A strong sense of, and respect for, wilderness as place and process.
  • Enhanced competence and confidence as a current and future leader.

The SCP had three phases. A preparatory week, a week of wilderness and a week of writing up. The first week is about preparing practically for the trip, and intellectually through studying various aspects of leadership in the literature.

On the expedition they faced a wide variety of leadership exercises, played a part in the running of the expedition community and had  time for fun and reflection – all in remote, dormitory-style accommodation (the exact location of was is a well-guarded secret until the last minute!).

In this presentation we will

  • Uncover more on the rationale for the project
  • Explain what we actually did – including in a remote setting
  • Share student reflections on the experience

Meantime we have a selection of video interviews with students who attended last year’s programme (Vimeo).

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