Published January 2022
Our curriculum will challenge students to explore real-world problems and enable them to contribute to making a difference. Students will explore big questions facing the world such as sustainability, climate change, inequality, and popularism. The curriculum will create opportunities for interaction with local and international partners to debate problems, and for students to contribute their time, talents and knowledge to the community in mutually beneficial ways.
Links to research
Across the HE sector, sustainability is a major topic of consideration. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an excellent starting point. With seventeen goals, the framework is structured to apply to virtually every discipline and practical application. When applying sustainability considerations to HE, this is often referred to as Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), employing a three-pillar framework of social, environmental and economic concerns. National guidance on ESD is now in its second iteration (see QAA 2021).
These global frameworks are particularly useful when engaging with interdisciplinary curricula. Interdisciplinary teaching is often framed within Grand Challenges that affect the globe, such as climate change, technological advancement and inequalities.
The theme of global citizenship (GC) has often been framed as an element of or a bolt-on concept to themes of sustainability and sustainable development. Global citizenship accommodates ambiguity (Lilley, Barker & Harris, p. 2017). It is less important to have a set of immutable definitions; rather, how students think and learn to act as global citizens is the goal of GC education (Lilley, Barker & Harris, 2017, p. 15, 18). GC is defined as fostering the critical self-reflection and understanding students’ need to negotiate the challenges of energy and resource management and food security, tackle international insecurity and engage with culture and heritage in an increasingly globalised world. Internationalisation of HE curricula also contributes to the breath of engagement with GC (see De Vita & Case, 2003; Brown & Jones, 2007).
In 2019, the University of Bristol was one of 31 institutions to sign the The Civic University Agreement. Civic curriculum activities that resonate with the city of Bristol provide our students with opportunities to apply their knowledge to real world problems. This civic platform enables students to explore their local environment and communities in engaged ways, offering opportunities for them to make a difference. Engaged Learning gives students the opportunity to apply skills and knowledge from their academic studies to a real-world question, by working in partnership with community organisations through a variety of methods including consultancy, placements and co-production. It is sometimes also known as Service Learning or Community Based Learning.
What this means for curriculum design
Easy first steps to including global and civic themes into your curriculum include:
- Inviting guest speakers who engage with your degree content, but from a different disciplinary perspective. The Alumni Team maintain a database of graduates who would be happy to work with you. To support this, you can attend cross-faculty events to network with others in a quest to find out where your interests overlap. You can also reach out to city partners from industry and community alike.
- Instigate collaborative teaching interventions with colleagues in other disciplines by co-teaching on each other’s units. Taking a shared theme across Schools can enable creative approaches to team-taught programmes (see Caviglia-Harris & Hatley 2004).
- You can encourage your first and second year students to take a Bristol Futures optional unit, if it fits with your degree programme structure.
- Change the way you use your teaching time. For example, ask students to query how they communicate their subject to those from other disciplines, so that they become more practiced in articulating research. You can set aside time for students to use frameworks such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to figure out who else might be affected by their subject and how.
The following categories and prompts can be applied during the process of curriculum design and review relating to GC (credit to Prof Madhu Krishnan):
- Transnationalism: Does the unit answer or propose questions dealing with connections across multiple cultures, societies, or groups of people, including those beyond its immediate remit?
- Global Perspectives: Does the unit present issues or problems facing its own nation as well as others?
- Self-Question: Does the unit allow the students to reflect upon their own experience and how it may affect their studies or evaluation of information?
- International References: Does the unit bring in sources, scholars, and work from outside the United Kingdom?
- Global Consciousness: Are students made aware of varying perspectives and views, particularly other ways of living, rooted in diverse epistemologies?
- Cultural Adaptivity: Do students learn to navigate and mould themselves to varying cultural and societal situations?
- Global Reach: Does the information in the unit prepare the student for an internationalised job market?
- Progressive Impact: Will this unit help provide students with the tools and knowledge to make a positive impact on the global market?
- Forward Thinking: Does the unit teach the student to solve global issues and grand challenges of today and tomorrow?
Ways to engage with sustainability:
- You can apply national guidance on ESD to frame your curriculum (QAA 2021: 12-13).
- You can align your ILOs with ESD learning objectives (UNESCO 2017).
There are a range of ways to introduce real-world learning into your curriculum – from light-touch approaches like using case studies through to embedding work experience or placement opportunities.
What does this look like in practice?
|School of Management |
Angela Parry Lowther and Karl Anton
|Real world learning for PGTs – marketing strategies for a social cause|
|Case study reflecting on a masters unit focused on developing employability and sustainability skills for marketing students. Available at:||https://bilt.online/real-world-learning-for-pgts-marketing-strategies-for-a-social-cause/|
|Physical Geographers working with the local community|
|This case study looks at the experience of 50 second year Physical Geographers on the Research Methods unit who went out in teams to work with local park groups looking at soil and water quality questions. Available at:||https://bilt.online/physical-geographers-working-with-the-local-community/|
|School of Psychological Science|
Chris Kent, Jessica Fielding and Peter Allen
|Building confidence and engaged researchers through active partnership and problem-based learning|
|A PowerPoint showing the re-design of materials and session to include weekly tests and problem based active group work. Available at:||https://bilt.online/building-confidence-and-engaged-researchers-through-active-partnership-and-problem-based-learning/|
|School of Education|
Kate Hawkey, Jon James & Celia Tidmarsh
|Using Wicked Problems to foster interdisciplinary practice among UK trainee teachers|
|Journal article exploring the use of Wicked Problems in teacher training to instigate transformative learning. Available at:||https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02607476.2019.1639263|
Grace, E. (2020). “Employability in the curriculum – the Why and How of real-world learning” BILT Blog, https://bilt.online/employability-in-the-curriculum-the-why-and-how-of-real-world-learning/
Lilley, K., Barker, M. & Harris, N. (2017). The global citizen conceptualized: Accommodating ambiguity. Journal of Studies in International Education, 21(1), 6-21. doi:10.1177/1028315316637354
Sklad, M., Friedman, J., Park, E. & Oomen, B. (2016) “Going Glocal”: a qualitative and quantitative analysis of global citizenship education at a Dutch liberal arts and sciences college. Higher Education, 72(3), 323-340. doi:10.1007/s10734-015-9959-6
Stein, S., Andreotti, V.D.O. & Suša, R. 2019 ‘Beyond 2015’, within the modern/colonial global imaginary? Global development and higher education. Critical Studies in Education, 60(3), 281-301. doi:10.1080/17508487.2016.1247737
Tierney, A. Tweddell, H. and Willmore, C. (2015). “Measuring education for sustainable development: Experiences from the University of Bristol” International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 16 No. 4, pp. 507-522. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-07-2013-0083
Tierney, A. (2019). “Urban Spaces. Civic University” BILT Blog https://bilt.online/urban-spaces-civic-university/
Tierney, A. (2019). “Interdisciplinary Teaching” Case Studies, BILT Blog https://bilt.online/interdisciplinary-teaching/
Tierney, A. (2020). “The Civic University Online” BILT Blog https://bilt.online/the-civic-university-online/
Tweddell, H. (2021). “Open Units and Engaged Learning” BILT Blog, https://bilt.online/open-units-and-engaged-learning/
Wilkinson, R. (2021). “UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development” BILT Blog https://bilt.online/unesco-world-conference-on-education-for-sustainable-development/
United Nations (2021). “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” Department of Economic and Social Affairs https://sdgs.un.org