School: Interdisciplinary (based in Geography)
Unit name: Sustainable Development
What is the unit and what does it cover?
It’s an interdisciplinary open unit which takes a challenge-focussed approach to teaching the UN’s SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). The main body of the unit consists of 6 interactive workshops on different global challenges, bookended by an introduction to the SDGs at the beginning and a group project at the end.
How is sustainability included in it? How did you decide what was appropriate?
The unit used to be taught as a lecture series, with lecturers from different parts of the university each delivering a lecture on their approach to the SDGs (lectures from SPAIS, Law, Education, Engineering, Philosophy, Economics) but we decided to reconfigure it so interdisciplinarity is built into the teaching model rather than the more ‘pick and mix’ approach. This was how the workshop structure came about, with a focus on interdisciplinary approaches to tackling the challenges each workshop covers.
If it uses any unusual/original pedagogy or assessment approaches to do this, what are these?
Interdisciplinarity – we have built an interdisciplinary team of academics to deliver the course, which is available as an open unit to students from across the University. We get round the timetabling barriers by holding each workshop four times a week. The structural (financial) barriers to interdisciplinarity have been more difficult to overcome and have led to the unit becoming more and more centralised into Geography, with some teaching staff moving fulltime to the school.
The unit is divided into six workshops delivered across six weeks. These are challenge-based and focused on interdisciplinary solutions. The first workshop is based around a mock-COP, another workshop centres on analysing climate proposals through a social justice lens, and another one focuses on psychology and persuading people to use less plastic. There are 60-70 students per workshop. The assessment is based on two 300-word write-ups of workshops and a final 5000-word project they complete in interdisciplinary groups of 4-5 students on approaches to a global challenge (all groups get a choice of the same 4 projects).
What sustainability-relevant ‘takeaways’ would you expect students to gain?
We hope students will gain challenge focused interdisciplinary thinking. Taking a challenge, analysing how different disciplines will offer different solutions to these challenges, and utilising those different disciplines to come up with solutions.