Unit names: US Foreign Policy, Politics of Human Rights, Thinking Politically, Climate Crisis and International Security (Masters)
How is sustainability included in these units?
Sustainability is weaved into all these units through the inclusion of a variety of relevant discussion topics, examples, and case studies. In units where the connection isn’t immediately obvious, I ensure that there is a week in which the unit’s main topic (e.g., US Foreign Policy) is interconnected with the climate crisis. This is not necessarily the ideal way of integrating it into the content, as it can feel like a tag-on if it is not handled properly, which is why I make sure that the topic is present throughout the unit and is cohesive with the unit’s content.
If it uses any unusual/original pedagogy or assessment approaches to do this, what are these?
An example is ‘Hackathons Challenge’-based workshops, where students are given a problem and guided in designing solutions. These are usually done in collaboration with external groups on an ad-hoc basis when the opportunity arises. For instance, an organisation is designing workshops to run in South Gloucestershire about achieving net zero in the area, and masters’ students had a seminar in which they contributed to the design of those workshops. The ad-hoc nature means they can’t be assessed for it, but the experience of working with an external organisation on a practical sustainability challenge is invaluable.
Another example is simulation exercises such as Mock Cop and Model UN, which are great activities the students really enjoy. These are two examples out of a series of simulations which encourage students to engage with current real-world challenges. In another activity, numbered post-it notes – which represent available resources – are hidden around the room unevenly, and students have a short amount of time to gather the post-its from their area. Once they find them, there are different ‘value thresholds’ that need to be reached to be above the poverty line, and which can lead all the way up to a high-carbon society. The rest of the seminar is spent with students negotiating how they are going to distribute the resources they have between themselves.
What sustainability-relevant ‘takeaways’ would you expect students to gain?
Critical creative thinking is definitely one the most important ones. Students of politics need to know how to bring about change, and the ability to imagine a different future is crucial to do so.