Sustainability in teaching and learning (STL) is the deliberate construction of learning experiences, across disciplines, so that graduates can demonstrate proficiency in competencies for sustainable development.

Sustainability in teaching and learning includes:

1. Course outcomes that focus on the development of such competencies.
2. Instructional strategies that provide opportunity for students to practice and get feedback 
3. Assessment that directly measures student skill level in the competencies.  

 

All are required to support students in reliably developing these competencies by the completion of an undergraduate degree at USask.

We must commit to deliberately designing courses and programs to systematically build sustainability competencies in our students. This requires engaging in social, environmental, and economic development that meets the needs of the present while mindfully and respectfully protecting the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Undergraduate Competencies in Sustainability

​​What students will be able to know and do to build a sustainable world.

USask students engage in meaningful communication about sustainability when they exchange ideas, facts, and perspectives about sustainability with others.  They are effective when they purposefully select and use strategies for communicating in response to context and audience, making dialogue about sustainability more inclusive and persuasive, and more likely to result in sustainable actions.

Students who thrive as members of a sustainable society handle diversity in perspective, position, and approach adeptly. They communicate and collaborate effectively within diverse groups and an increasingly global society and have intercultural competence to generate and achieve solutions that generate inclusive, sustainable development.

Students who nurture successful relationships describe who they are and can embrace diversity of interpersonal strengths and weaknesses to support sustainable outcomes with others. They are accountable for their own sustainability actions, manage the conflicts inherent in sustainability effectively, successfully prioritize with other sustainability stakeholders, and negotiate for sustainable results.

Students who can leverage technology are able to use digital/technological tools and systems ethically, appropriately, and effectively to accomplish sustainable goals.

Students who can successfully employ adaptive design and solve problems in sustainability need to be creative thinkers who see interdisciplinary possibilities where others may not. They can use their own disciplinary expertise to contribute to the design, implementation, and evaluation of an interdisciplinary approach to achieve a sustainability goal. They can work in interdisciplinary contexts to achieve complex, collective goals.

Students effectively engage in cultivating resilience when they reflect on what they are doing, how it is working, and make appropriate adjustments to be successful. They engage in thoughtful decision-making and are self-aware and reflective. Students can purposefully navigate adversity and respond appropriately to the negative impacts of unsustainable activities and climate change. Students respect personal limits and boundaries, and they deliberately engage in healthy persistence in the face of change, including our changing world.

Writing Sustainability-Centred Course Outcomes

You can help students improve their sustainability competencies by developing course outcomes that align with the undergraduate competencies that describe ways students will actively demonstrate those competencies in the course.  For example, students might:

  • Describe the role of discipline in a sustainable system (Communicate Meaningfully)
  • Model and encourage perspective taking on sustainability issues in a group (Nurture Effective Relationships)
  • Choose the most effective technologies to exchange ideas, facts, and perspectives about sustainability with others in and beyond the course (Leveraging Technology)
  • Communicate and collaborate effectively within diverse groups on approaches to sustainability (Engaging in our intercultural society)
  • Employ adaptive design, systems thinking, and problem solving to sustainability problems (Adaptive Design and Problem Solving)
  • Reflect on sustainability issues by considering impacts on the 5Ps (People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnerships) and personal resilience. (Cultivating Resilience)

Practice and feedback

Disciplinary content and knowledge are not enough to shift sustainability goals. Many sustainability solutions are as much about communication, working together, and negotiating diversity as they are about technologies, political implications, or facts.  

For example, to “Communicate Meaningfully” your students should:

  1. Exchange ideas, facts, and perspectives about sustainability with others. As with many acquired skills, students are unlikely to intuitively do it well on the first try.
  2. Thus, students need to practice shifting communication depending on the audience and purpose. 
  3. For practice to be effective, students then need feedback about their attempts so that they can improve how they mobilize their knowledge.  
  4. Finally, their grades, or any assessment, should reflect how competently they can communicate about sustainability.
Sustainability in teaching and learning is more than just providing students with information about sustainability. It is about providing opportunities to work collaboratively, to appreciate multiple perspectives, to be reflective, to think critically and creatively, and act constructively. At USask, this requires developing curricula and pedagogy that will give students the skills and knowledge to live and work sustainably.

Teaching practices

Below are teaching practices that help build sustainability competencies:

Students feel more connected to their learning when they get to choose its focus. Allowing students choice to pick their projects is a motivator for meaningful engagement and the basis of lifelong engagement in sustainability. Heutagogy, or student-direct learning, is a simple way to ensure students are engaged in their learning.

The way we each relate to the land and position ourselves helps students develop their own ideologies, which impacts their practices. Embedding reciprocity and kinship in our teaching is important for wāhkōhtowin and good relations.

Transformative teaching requires educators to create conditions for students to experience a large magnitude of change within the short timeframe of an academic term. Opportunities for students to remove themselves from their ordinary, such as through Indigenous land-based education, experiential learning, group work, case studies, authentic assessment and other immersive exercises have the most impact to shift students’ mind and heart sets while developing the necessary technical skill sets.

Use journals, peer conversations, pre/post surveys, and questions such as, “what would you do differently knowing what you know now?” to help students continuously reframe and contextualize themselves within their learning.

See more: Idea Book Chapter on Reflective Learning

You may not identify as an expert in sustainability. However, your discipline is likely part of the solution to meet global goals. Embedding sustainability helps students see how their local lived reality fits within a global context. Making connections between your research, scholarship, artistic work, or profession, can help students be inspired and keep learning relevant.

Learn more in the USask Learning Charter Educator Commitments.

The reality of practicums, placements, or other community-based learning is that it requires community connections. These partnerships are conventionally informal and built on the social capital of individual faculty however there are resources at USask to help you.

Reach out:

Rationale

The University Plan 2025 strategic plan calls for it to be The University the World Needs. A university whose graduates have the drive, the curiosity, and the humility to work with others in addressing the greatest challenges and opportunities the world faces. Through nakaatayihtaamoowin, we understand sustainability to mean protecting and honouring the wellness of all humanity and creation by taking care of the relationship with which we’ve been entrusted — with the land, with the air and water, with our students, colleagues, and neighbours — guided by mindfulness, respect, and reverence.

USask’s Sustainability Plan: Critical Path to Sustainability, guides the institution’s approach to sustainability. It identifies the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as an organizing framework for guiding our understanding of sustainability. The plan calls for USask to support a generation of learners to shift mindset, expand skillset, and accelerate action to achieve the SDGs.

Sustainability Faculty Fellows

In search of academic units that are willing to adopt broader change with the help of an appointed Faculty Fellow in the domains of Sustainability of Teaching and Learning (STL) and Open Education Pedagogy (OEP).

The Faculty Fellow is an individual who has:

  • Demonstrated the ability to meet commitments.
  • A desire to embed principles of open pedagogy and sustainability within their own course such that students are taking action towards sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • The qualities of someone who contributes to change: clear philosophy on teaching and positionality, empathy for others’ lived realities, ability to have difficult conversations with peers, open to new ways of doing and being, and the explicit support and commitment of their academic unit.
  • The support of academic leadership to pursue this work.

The Faculty Fellow is looking to:

  • Act on internal motivations for a more sustainable and just world.
  • Develop their academic leadership skills.
  • Bridge their teaching and scholarship.
  • Engage with a community of practice.

Please note: You must have approval from your academic leader and they must complete the last page of the application package.

Support

For additional questions or assistance, visit the Office of Sustainability's webpage or contact Aditi Garg, Educational Development Specialist with GMCTL.