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24-01-2011
25-10-2010


Curriculum innovation in higher education institutions (HEIs)

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Curriculum Innovation, Sustainability
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The Curriculum Greening Programme

University of Hertfordshire
UNITED KINGDOM
Europe

Contact Information

Jennifer Blumhof


  

In 2000 a team was founded at UH called the Environmental Team – Building Sustainable Futures, with the mission of implementing activities that would lead to the greening of the university. This team is directly supported by the Vice-chancellor's Office and the Centre for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT). It is composed of five permanent members, and is assisted by volunteers and helpers recruited from among university teaching staff members, other staff members, and university students. Depending on the activities implemented, greening groups and local government bodies may also participate.

Although environmental management of the campus accounts for a significant proportion of the efforts of the Environmental Team, the main focus of the team at present is the Education for Sustainable Development programme. This programme was inspired by the need to add an environmentalist perspective to educational and research activities. This need was pinpointed in a diagnostic study carried out in 2004 by the consultants WSP Environmental. The study was performed with a view to implementing the process for obtaining the ISO 14001 certification for environmental management of the campus. The Environment Team in coordination with CELT is responsible for implementing a curriculum greening project.

The government of the United Kingdom is adopting a proactive stance in relation to the introduction of a sustainable development perspective into all levels of the education system.

Already by November 2003 the Department of Education and Skills of the UK government was drawing up its Sustainable Development Action Plan for Education and Skills, aimed at introducing the concept of sustainability into education centres in the United Kingdom.

In 2005 the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) drew up a document entitled Sustainable Development in Higher Education. Consultation on a Support Strategy and Action Plan. The document essentially contains a series of recommendations to encourage higher education centres to include sustainable development in their strategic plans, with a view to achieving the following broad aims:

To incorporate the principles of sustainable development in values, strategies, operations and learning
To promote curricula, teaching methods and extra-curricular activities that enable students to acquire values, skills and knowledge that contribute to sustainable development
To develop links with the public, the community, economic sectors, public authorities and other agents implicated in sustainable development
Through research and development, to construct knowledge and create instruments which contribute to sustainable development
To encourage activities by higher education centres that have a positive impact on the environment, society and the economy.

Encouraged and supported by official bodies, higher education centres in the UK now have available more resources for undertaking innovative experiments in the field of sustainable development, as demonstrated by the experience of the University of Hertfordshire (UH).

In 2000 a team was founded in the UH, called the Environmental Team – Building Sustainable Futures, with the mission of implementing activities that would lead to the greening of the university. This team is directly supported by the Vice-chancellor’s Office and the Centre for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT). It is composed of five permanent members, and is assisted by volunteers and helpers recruited from among university teaching staff members, other staff members, and university students. Depending on the activities implemented, greening groups and local government bodies may also participate.

Although environmental management of the campus accounts for a significant proportion of the efforts of the Environmental Team, the main focus of the team at present is the Education for Sustainable Development programme. This programme was inspired by the need to add an environmentalist perspective to educational and research activities. This need was pinpointed in a diagnostic study carried out in 2004 by the consultants WSP Environmental. The study was performed with a view to implementing the process for obtaining the ISO 14001 certification for environmental management of the campus. The Environment Team in coordination with CELT is responsible for implementing a curriculum greening project.


The UH is currently implementing an environmental policy plan. Approved in 2003, this plan reflects the central role played by education and research in promoting sustainable development in all areas of university life.

In subsequent years, the plan’s main areas for action were defined:
  1. Sustainable management of the university campus
  2. Education for Sustainable Development, particularly the inclusion, in educational curricula, of concepts and practices that favour sustainability, with the following goals:
a) To emphasise skills that foster sustainable development.
b) To raise awareness among university staff and students in relation to the environment and sustainability issues.
c) To improve existing educational guides by including the concept of sustainability in curricula.
d) To enrich teaching-learning practices by incorporating sustainability themes.
e) To publicise experiences and internal and external good practices in the university.
f) To provide students with an Internet-based tool for locating environmental resources suitable for the range of courses of study offered by the university.
g) To improve guidance and support for lecturers and researchers so as to ensure that they have the tools necessary to incorporate the sustainable development concept in their teaching.

The main lines of work in the campus greening programmes are as follows:
a) Minimisation of waste, recycling and energy efficiency
b) Promotion of the use of sustainable transport
c) Promotion of ecological and responsible consumption
d) Development of sustainability criteria for the design of new buildings
e) Implementation of a biodiversity plan
f) Development of links with the local community (working with local governments and environmental groups).
 
The Education for Sustainable Development programme is still underway. The main activities contemplated by this programme are as follows:
a) The production of sustainability resources (Sustainability Project Shop).
b) The preparation of teaching materials for curriculum greening.
c) The inclusion of sustainability criteria in the curricula of certain university departments.
d) The linking with environmental experts.
e) The organisation of sustainable development activities (conferences, encounters, seminars, etc.).

The project commenced with a pilot version that included university departments that are especially sensitive to the environment. Initially three departments (Art and Design, Geography and Environmental Sciences, and Business and Tourism Management) were recruited, in order to work with the UH Environment Team in preparing teaching materials in the form of case studies adapted to each course.

The curriculum greening programme commenced with a conference attended by representatives of UH departments participating in the project and of universities (including the University of Kingston, which has implemented a particularly interesting project) that foster curriculum greening processes. Work sessions were held with external advisers, in order to systematically schedule the series of actions necessary to ensure curriculum greening. As a result of this conference a pilot programme for curriculum greening was launched that focused largely on the preparation of materials based on case studies.

One element of the curriculum greening programme is the Sustainability Project Shop, which encourages students to develop projects and implement works that include a sustainability perspective, as well as reporting experiences and makes resources available for courses of study.

Good Teaching Practices in both UH departments and in other universities are used as a basis for drawing up guides for teaching staff and departments that wish to include a sustainable development perspective in the curriculum.

Although the process for implementing the curriculum greening programme is as yet incomplete, it is expected that the steps listed below will be taken:

  • Once case studies have been developed as teaching materials, to test the possibility of including the same principles in other academic disciplines, while at the same time tackling any specific problems raised.
  • To equip teaching staff with the skills and knowledge for curriculum greening. To plan a series of presentations and workshops for course representatives from each university department.
  • To draw up recommendations for CELT to deliver to the Academic Quality Enhancement Committee.

Although the main activities of the Environment Team aimed at the construction of a sustainable future are currently underway, some preliminary result are already available.

Once the curriculum greening programme has been concluded, an internal evaluation will be performed based on the following indicators:
  • Number of members of the university community who attend the conference organised by CELT.
  • Number of identified best practices that will serve as an example to the UH.
  • Number of case studies and departments involved in the programme (To date three departments participate in the project for preparing case study material).
  • Number of environmentally friendly and sustainable research projects prepared by the Environment Team and staff representatives.
  • Annual feedback reports on the curriculum greening guides distributed to teaching staff.
  • External and internal distribution of teaching materials in the form of case studies.
  • Number of external and internal news features and campaigns created to promote the curriculum greening project.
  • Annual number of Sustainability Project Shop projects (resources are currently available for 9 departments in the university).
  • Number of teaching programmes that include a curriculum greening perspective.

 To dedicate resources to this initiative, to create a dedicated and motivated team, and whenever possible, to involve university students and staff in the process.
  • Set up the team.
  • Involve students and experts in public debates.
  • Adopt a dual perspective on environmental change that includes bottom-up change (e.g. through grassroots groups) and top-down change (through university policies).

2000; active

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