The pedagogy of sustainability-based literacy is as rich as it is complex. Such pedagogy implies that the science of sustainability and its application, is not only a worthwhile academic pursuit, but one that raises the stake in the deliberations over student learning outcomes, and objectivity, if not academic freedom. It is very similar, if not strongly attached to the same pedagogical debates around diversity, social justice, and equity. In fact it is a synergistic expansion of that exact discussion when understood from the “triple bottom line”, “three legged stool”, or other common frameworks for sustainability-based lifestyles, sustainable business models, and sustainable campus~community development; in other words, a holistic systems-thinking approach to integrating environmental, social, and economic performance in the personal, professional, and civic lives of our students, and all our stakeholders, as life-long learners.
For example, just as “diversity education” implies that there are intolerable risks and injustices in the failure to raise literacy and life affirming behaviors by not requiring and/or infusing social justice and equity across the curriculum, intolerable risks and injustices (both human and non-human), are clearly indicated as a result of illiteracy around sustainability. The pursuit of sustainability implies that there is strong evidence pointing to the need to avoid “unsustainability”. That in itself is one of the most critical student learning outcomes to be considered, pedagogically.
The values, principles, and practices of sustainability are revolutionary in this regard, as they imply that many traditional values and ways by which humans think of themselves in relationship to each other and the natural world are clearly in question. Developing student learning outcomes, curriculum, and pedagogy that bring students to a high level of understanding of sustainability-based contexts in the pursuit of truth and its application in the world is already firmly in motion.
Such pedagogy ranges from traditional classroom setting methodologies to the most intense immersion experiences that one might imagine, whether in Semester Abroad in Europe, service learning in the inner city gardens of Milwaukee, or neutrino research in Antarctica. The most intense experience and reinforcement of learning outcomes, or not, is the daily walk the talk immersion experience of the campus as a real-life sustainability laboratory; ecologically, socially, and economically.
It is not hard to argue that sustainability is one, if not the strongest, of the single platforms from which to provide multidisciplinary, place-based, experiential education that brings a dimension to the lives of our students that will be richly rewarding by all measures. There are significant pedagogical discussions for sustainability already well entrenched in higher education in the U.S. and internationally. A web search will quickly reveal many of these, but good starting points might be the following:
Vanderbilt University Teaching Guide
Schreyer Institute Curriculum Series
This section of the webpage is devoted to sharing examples and support for the innovative sustainability-based pedagogies already in existence on this campus, and those to come. Please do not hesitate to contact us for submission of examples to be posted.
Sustainability Across the Curriculum (UWRF), 2011
Wright & Wright (UWRF) / ISSOTL 2008
"Studying our Teaching and Learning Through the Lens of Sustainability"
Celebrating Connections: Learning, Teaching, Scholarship
Oct. 18–19, 2008 — Edmonton, Alberta, Canada