Embedding Sustainability Workshop – Edinburgh

This morning Think Up held the second of its Embedding Sustainability workshops, this time at the University of Edinburgh. Today’s delegates were from the Universities of Abertay, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Herriot Watt and Strathclyde.

Rather than focusing on the challenges of embedding bedding sustainability, the emphasis of this session was very much on practical implementation in the modules that delegates are teaching.

Delegates chose for discussion three principles from Think Up’s embedding sustainability report:
Principle 4: Develop critical thinking to help understand different perspectives
Principle 7: Apply Judgement to real problems
Principle 9: Take learners outside their comfort zone.

In discussion the distinction between these threee principles was blurred – as one delegate put it, asking students to exercise judgement requires the application of critical thinking and often takes students outside their comfort zone. The strongest ideas to emerge for the implementing of these principles were as follows:

– Move beyond pros and cons, and ask students to make a stand and defend it.

– Encourage students to present to regularly to one another in small groups in order to encourage peer-to-peer evaluation, and therefore critical thinking. Make this sort of activity a common rather than exceptional activity.

– Encourage students to challenge received wisdom and preconceived ideas, especially around emmotive issues. The example cited was about asking to students to look at whether wind power is really a viable energy source for the UK.

– Set very specific contexts for projects to allow students to consider the impacts of decisions on real stakeholders.

– Expect students to develop an opinion on engineering issues, and to record and update these views in a private or public blog. Find a way to link this to professional development.

– Ask students to carry out an energy audit of their departmental buildings or their student accommodation. Not only does this encourage students to put in theory into practice in relation to their surroundings, it also requires students to assess their own impact and behaviours.

Other points
Several times during the discussion the idea came up of providing students with the opportunity to learn about techniques for complex decision making early on. Even if they don’t get much use to start with, the ideas will have been embedded for when the students do need to apply these techniques later on.

Once more Engineers Without Borders was cited as providing excellent learning opportunities, this time by giving the chance for students to interact with real stakeholders on developmental projects.

Next workshop
Our next sustainability workshop will be at Imperial College next week. See our Eventbrite page for more details.