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ICA-Edu Colloquium Keynote Abstracts


Incorporating Ethics Across the Curriculum in the Life Sciences

David A. Knauft
Professor of Horticulture and Interim Head, Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication Department, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA

The world population is predicted to reach 9 billion people by 2050. To support such an increased population, social systems, agricultural production, and ecosystem balance must sustain this population increase. In higher education, students are being trained in the social, biological, and physical sciences that can address the needs of sustainability. Increasingly, these complex issues require an understanding of the ethical implications of scientific discoveries and their practical and political application. Incorporating ethics education in curricula can include a core ethics course required of all individuals in a degree program. While having the advantage of uniformity in instruction, students may perceive such courses as having limited relevance to their discipline. Ethics discussions embedded in disciplinary courses throughout the curriculum can provide students with a better understanding of the value of ethical decision making in their own field, but may be taught by faculty with little or no training or interest in ethics.


(not) Seeing the forest for the trees –the SDGs as a claim to Universities

Georg Gratzer
Professor, Institute of Forest Ecology, Department of Forest and Soil SciencesBOKU - University for Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria

The challenges the world is facing are severe and urgent. In responding to the multitude of these challenges, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development raises the claim to transform the world and set it on a "sustainable and resilient path" (preamble to the UN resolution). The 169 targets, grouped into 17 goals are encompassing, ambitious, partly vague, partly well defined and scientifically rigorous, not explicitly negotiating political and economic power and mostly isolated from each other. Although lacking an explicit narrative of how the (ideal) world would look like after 2030, and being criticised for that, I will argue in my talk that the SDGs carry that narrative inherently in the entirety of their goals and that the transformative power of the agenda will only unfold if that narrative is realised and made explicit. I will sketch and discuss different approaches of scientists and University in dealing with the SDGs in different but interdependent fields of action and will explore if there are potentially unifying imperatives in the SDGs.

Using the SDGs as a catalyst for re-designing higher education in the Anthropocene

Arjen Wals
Professor Transformative Learning for Socio-Ecological Sustainability and UNESCO Chair of Social Learning and Sustainable Development, Wageningen University and Research

The United Nations Agenda 2030 offers 17 valuable guideposts for re-orienting life science education towards the key challenges of our times: the SDGs. In this talk I will present SGDs 4 (quality education) and 17 (creating partnerships) as the two process-oriented SDGs that can help achieve the 15 others which focus on a range of inter-related topics that connect with people, planet and prosperity. Dealing with complex sustainable development challenges means that 'education-as-usual,' just like 'business-as-usual' simply won't do. Instead new forms of learning and community engagement will be needed to deal with inevitable complexity, ambiguity, 'alternative facts', diverging value-orientations and uncertainty. I will introduce new forms of learning and re-introduce old ones that require boundary-crossing, joint fact-finding, multi-stakeholder social learning and citizen science. Taking the SDGs seriously can help universities in re-designing and combining their education, research and outreach activities.


Report of the business survey of key sustainable development competences, knowledge and skills in working life – implications for Higher Education

Klaus Wagner , Jannie Van der Luit , Corinne Stewart
Federal Institute of Agricultural Economics, Vienna, Austria, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Van Hall University, The Netherlands, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , President of the ISLE Association, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Key words: Education for Sustainability, Professionalisation, Competences, Skills, Knowledge, Cross-fertilisation, Sustainable practices, Employability.

A great many people have already embraced the need for Education and training as a key to moving the workforce and society in general towards a sustainable living process. Educational bodies are conscious about the need for training in the manifold aspects of sustainable development and employers are also aware that their employees require sustainable development-related competences, knowledge and skills.

However, the implementation of Education for Sustainability (EFS) programs in Higher Education in the field of Life Sciences pre-supposes that these sustainable development-related competences, knowledge and skills have already been identified by the employers. An extensive review of literature carried out during the I.S.L.E project (2010-2013) indicated that such information was not available in the European or international context.

Therefore, the consortium worked firstly on developing and exchanging thinking and practice on sustainable development in teaching. Secondly it focused on identifying the sustainable development-related competences, knowledge and skills required by the European workforce in order to supply universities and training institutions in Higher Education with information on how they can adapt their curricula.

The study described in this presentation describes and analyses the European situation concerning the positioning of SD in HE in the field of Life Sciences, as well as the expectations of employers toward EFS. The report concludes by giving a series of recommendations for the adaptation of curricula.

Phase 1 consisted of a general scan of literature and research on environment, society and economy in order to identify key issues pertaining to sustainable development. Additionally an extensive review of literature and research was conducted to identify sustainable development-related competences, knowledge and skills required by the European workforce.

In Phase 2, an in-depth company survey entitled "Professional Practice and Sustainable Development" was designed and sent out to more than 10 000 companies in 20 European countries.

Selected data from a previous survey aimed at HEIs was also processed and the total data collected was subjected to a number of statistical analyses and subsequently interpreted.
Finally, the results were then validated and a publication entitled "Sustainable Development, an employer's perspective" was written and published by The Federal Institute of Agricultural Economics, Austria (AWI)

In this report, an indication is given (i) of whether the concept of sustainable development is present in Education and companies and (ii) of what professional practice in Europe considers as being the important sustainable development issues, competences, knowledge and skills and (iii) of whether there is a need for new jobs in the field of sustainable development in practice.

Today, Higher Education Institutions can, and must play their role in embedding sustainable development in their curricula. Not only must they work to transfer knowledge between professors and their students by teaching the concept of sustainability in an integrated and interdisciplinary way, they must also foster an efficient exchange of information and experience between Education & Research on the one hand and enterprises and civil society on the other to help bridge the gap between the needs of the labour market and students' expectations.

Sustainability-oriented pedagogy and learning outcomes: two cases from Wageningen University

Valentina Tassone
Lecturer and Researcher, Wageningen University and Research

Educators are increasingly interested in embedding sustainability-oriented pedagogies and learning outcomes within curricula, that can equip students to respond responsibly to urgent, complex and ambiguous sustainability challenges. In this presentation, I will share some efforts on this matter at Wageningen University. More specifically, I will share the conceptual ground, pedagogical aspects and learning outcomes related to two courses I coordinate and teach. The first one is the Empowerment for Sustainability course, which focuses on fostering students empowerment in the context of sustainability. This course, entirely designed according to the EYE tool which I will also introduce, attempts to support students to understand sustainability from multiple perspectives, and to unfold personal values, agency and action competencies. The second one is the Academic Consultancy Training, through which teams of students address jointly real life interdisciplinary-driven challenges faced by actors and organizations in society. This course, engaging almost one thousands students per year, especially attempts to support students to tackle collaboratively complex societal problems, to cross the boundary between various disciplines and forms of knowledge, to implement reflective thinking and action learning at the cross-road between academia and society. Both courses have received the Wageningen University Excellent Education award in 2017.