The Sustainable Futures Theme: what we have learnt about interdisciplinary education so far, and what is next



Abstract:

Sustainable Development poses perhaps the defining social and environmental challenges of the 21st Century, and will impact the lives of our students in many ways, both personally and professionally. What role does a university have in preparing students to meet these challenges, and how best can it do this?  What role does interdisciplinary education play in this, and how can we effectively offer it? Is a values-based approach complementary or in conflict with a more instrumental approach to education focused on the acquisition of skills and attributes to make one more employable? How can students be more effectively involved and engaged? How can the formal curriculum and non-credit bearing activities and opportunities offered by the university work together?

In this talk and discussion, I will offer an overview, reflections and learnings on the University’s engagement with Education for Sustainable Development through the Sustainable Futures theme of Bristol Futures, look at where we are going next (and how you can get involved) and consider how the university can scale things up in response to its recent declaration of a Climate Emergency.

Bio:

Chris Preist is Professor of Sustainability and Computer Systems in the Department of Computer Science. He is the Bristol Futures Sustainable Futures Theme Lead and is responsible for supporting Education for Sustainable Development throughout the university. His research focuses on the environmental impacts, both positive and negative, of digital technology.

Meet the BILT Associates

Meet the Associates… Ash Tierney

The following post was written by Ash Tierney, a Research Associate and Project Manager for Bristol Futures. Ash has been a BILT Associate since May 2019.

I’ve been working in curriculum development roles at the University of Bristol since 2012. My focus started with Education for Sustainable Development and saw me conduct curriculum reviews on this theme across all degree programmes. I represented higher education in the UK at the House of Commons discussions on “Enabling the future we want: Education for Sustainable Development in the UK”. Outside of the formal curriculum, our team collaborated with the Students Union, Bristol Hub, the National Union of Students and UWE. One of our biggest achievements in this time was the Bristol Green Capital project “Green Capital: Student Capital. The power of student sustainability engagement”. The effort resulted in over 100,000 hours of student volunteering for sustainability across both UoB and UWE.

I was delighted to be one of three academics who co-developed the “Bristol Futures: Sustainable Futures” open online blended course, hosted on FutureLearn. It was the first time I had collaborated pedagogically with such interdisciplinary peers, one from Chemistry, the other from Engineering. The result is a four-week course that is freely accessible to everyone globally and runs three times a year.

Since late 2017, I’ve become Project Manager for the University’s Bristol Futures project covering areas of the core and optional curriculum. In 2018/2019, we delivered four new interdisciplinary optional units. The units have challenged traditional teaching approaches, experimenting with new forms of assessment and blended learning delivery. This role includes typical project management responsibilities (budget, staffing, evaluation, etc.), but also encompasses dynamic elements of content development such as script-writing for documentaries.

While completing my PhD on Historical Archaeology, I ran public engagement activities within archaeological fieldwork. In the USA, I led engagement efforts for three seasons on “Embedding Sustainability Thinking into Fieldwork: placing student learning at the heart of community engagement”. This was divided into two foci: research-led outreach in the local high school; and co-produced research with the local community archaeology interest group. Within Bristol’s archaeology degree training fieldwork at Berkeley Castle, I led the engagement team to work with the community in novel ways, most notably “The Town Museum Project”. In this project, our Bristol students created displays of excavated material culture and placed them on display in the homes and businesses of Berkeley village. By bringing the archaeology into community-led temporary curatorship, we demonstrated trust in the community and allowed those unable to visit the excavations to feel more involved. My student-led public engagement efforts are noted by HEFCE as national best practice.

Following completion of my PhD in 2017, I have taken on the role of Project Director of Archaeology within Project Nivica, in the Kurvelesh mountains of Albania. The project sits within eco-tourism domestic initiatives, with the overall ambition to compile a detailed understanding of the history, archaeology and ecology of the village of Nivica and its environs. The aims of the project are: to understand how the inhabitants of Nivica shaped their identity in relation to Epirus, Illyria and Rome; and to situate heritage practice and participatory engagement within the principles of the Sustainable Development Goals. I am working in collaboration with the Municipality of Tepelenë, the National Coastline Agency, and the Institute of Archaeology.

Within my BiLT Associate role, I am looking to focus on outputs that cross both my interests in sustainability and heritage. Over the next two years, I will engage at sustainability conferences in the HE sector, disseminating our innovative work at Bristol, including the operational and logistic aspects that make pedagogic ambitions possible. I’d like to create podcasts with other educators on topics of professional practice and ethics within teaching, exploring methodological approaches, and how to embed the Sustainable Development Goals into student-led discussions and action. Given my Arts background and involvement in the Cadbury fiasco, I would also like to work with others to create a brief for international corporations on why Arts graduates are integral to their success.

What is a sustainable future?

Speaker: Prof Chris Willmore

Abstract:

It’s easy to see sustainability as being about guilt, about stopping doing things. This lecture looks positively at sustainability and the future we want to inhabit. This is about what we want, not what we don’t want. How can we make it fun and achieve a real difference to our university, our city and the world. It will look at how we can change our curriculum, change the campus and learn to tread lightly on the planet. It will reveal why some of the habits you develop at university will stay with you for life- and why some will get ditched. And pose the question – what can you say?

Bio:

Professor of Sustainability and Law, University of Bristol Law School, Chris Willmore qualified and practised as a barrister, before becoming an academic. Her work particularly focuses upon education for sustainability and the concept of a sustainable university. Her UK award winning work on student engagement in city transformation for sustainability won the International Green Gown for Student Engagement in 2017. She is a fellow of the EAUC and of the RSA.

 

 

 

Find out more about the BoB lectures
Facebook: @boblectures 
Twitter: @BoB_Lectures
Email: bob-lectures@bristol.ac.uk

Website: www.bristol.ac.uk