Programme Name: Geography
How is sustainability included in the program?
There was never a concerted, centralised effort to include sustainability into the curriculum in Geography, but it has emerged as a major theme throughout the programme due to its inescapable relevance to most topics covered in the subject and individual staff interest in the field.
This approach has both advantages and disadvantages. The lack of centrality means that there is no overall picture of the sustainability education being offered to students, but it also allows staff the autonomy to teach the most relevant ways in which sustainability relates to their topic and avoids it becoming an ‘add-on’. The opposite problem has also been identified, as the nature of Geography, and the fact that sustainability is almost universally relevant in all of its topics, means that any attempt to make sustainability the central theme of the curriculum could lead to it overwhelming the entire subject at the expense of other important themes.
If it uses any unusual/original pedagogy or assessment approaches to do this, what are these?
Not necessarily a specific pedagogy, but Geography have placed an emphasis on not only teaching sustainability, but also teaching sustainably. To do so, they have conducted a review of the international field trips they offer all undergrads. The review found that students were supportive of changes to make the trips more sustainable, so long as the changes did not impact the novelty or experience of the trip.
Some potential changes identified would be to seek funding to take the train to European destinations rather than flying, to use ‘carbon offsetting’ techniques like tree planting, to encourage students to calculate the environmental impact of their trip as part of their field trip work, or to establish a new ‘sustainable field trip’ students could opt for.
What sustainability-relevant ‘takeaways’ would you expect students to gain?
Students need to understand how physical and cultural geographies interlink when it comes to the climate crisis. Learning needs to be theoretical, as well as practical, with an understanding of the philosophical, political, and economic factors which have shaped the crisis, as well as the practical knowledge gathered by activities like field trips.
This, of course, is on top of other specific skills such as critical analysis, data analysis, modelling, quantifying risk, etc.