A Qualitative Investigation of Sustainability-oriented Courses at UBC

By Kshamta Bhupendra Hunter, Jolie Mayer-Smith and David Anderson.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability Education

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

With the underlying theme of globalization and encouraging students to be global citizens, the University of British Columbia (UBC) adopted a sustainable development policy in 1997 and revised it in the most recent UBC Sustainability Academic Strategy, 2009. The strategy focuses on promoting sustainable practices through teaching, learning and research. This study investigated the impact of courses offered at UBC that teach about sustainability, and students’ outlook and experiences in these courses and what students perceive or value as important for their understanding of sustainability concepts and pedagogies. Thus, the study seeks to examine the learning outcomes and effects of these courses through an in-depth qualitative analysis, through focus groups, one-on-one interviews and classroom observations that provides students’ views on their own learning. Findings indicate several factors play a role in students’ understanding and integration of knowledge. Students preferred working in multi-disciplinary environments that enhance their learning through peer interactions that involve project-based group learning. Motivation to engage in sustainability activities appeared to be advanced through philosophical discussions of sustainability-related issues. Findings from this study inform future course design and the development of comprehensive and cohesive sustainability curricula at UBC and other institutions of higher education.

Keywords: Sustainability Education, Student Understanding, Sustainability Content, Pedagogical Approaches, Sustainability Curriculum

The International Journal of Sustainability Education, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp.93-104. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 459.945KB).

Kshamta Bhupendra Hunter

Manager, Advising and Student Involvement, UBC Sustainability Initiative, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Kshamta Bhupendra Hunter works with the UBC Sustainability Initiative (USI) at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver. She holds a B.Sc. in cell biology and genetics and a B.Ed. in biological sciences. Her graduate work in UBC’s Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy focused on the development and assessment of sustainability curricula at both secondary and post-secondary levels. Kshamta manages the advising and engagement functions of the USI’s Teaching and Learning Office and helps UBC students explore and navigate learning opportunities that incorporate sustainability into their studies. She also provides support and collaborates with faculty to incorporate sustainability concepts and outcomes into the courses they teach. Kshamta manages several engagement and support programs for faculty and students, including the Sustainability Ambassadors peer program, UBC Reads Sustainability, and the Sustainability Across the Curriculum Community of Practice.

Dr. Jolie Mayer-Smith

Professor, Department of Curriculum & Pedagogy, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia (Vancouver), Vancouver, BC, Canada

Jolie Mayer-Smith is a Professor within the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. She holds a B.Sc. and M.A. in Biology from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in Science from the University of British Columbia. Jolie teaches courses in Curriculum and Instruction for pre-service teachers and Research Methodology for graduate students. Her research and writing focus on teacher education, postsecondary science teaching and learning, and environmental and garden-based education. Jolie is Director of the Intergenerational Landed Learning on the Farm for the Environment Project, a sustainability education and research initiative that teams community volunteers with youth ages 7-16, to examine how the hands-on experience of growing food can promote an understanding of the connections among land, food, and community and inspire stewardship for the earth.

David Anderson

Professor, Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy, University of British Columbia (Vancouver), Vancouver, BC, Canada

Dr. David Anderson is a Professor in the fields of Museum Education and Science Education, and is the Director of the Master of Museum Education (MMEd) degree program at the University of British Columbia (UBC). He has made significant contributions to these fields through initiating, reforming and strengthening collaborations between museums, schools and universities. Through these reforms his work has been instrumental in energizing the remarkable wealth of cultural, historic, and social significance represented in museum institutions. He is a Japan Foundation, Ritsumeikan and Unversitas 21 Research Fellow, and his research contributions span the Globe, but have had particular impact and relevance for the nations of Asia, including China, Malaysia, Thailand, India and Japan. He has worked on the leading edge of the trends in educational reforms in Asia, identifying the needs, working harmoniously within the changes, and bridging disconnected groups in ways that are yielding considerable benefits to education. His work is releasing and revitalizing the extraordinary educational wealth of culture and history held in museums throughout the World.