Developing a university-wide course on sustainability: a critical evaluation of planning and implementation

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Aktaş C. B., Whelan R., Stoffer H., Todd E., Kern C. L.

JOURNAL OF CLEANER PRODUCTION, vol.106, pp.216-221, 2015 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 106
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2014.11.037
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.216-221
  • Keywords: Higher education, Sustainable development, Common course, Team-taught, Freshmen, Multi-disciplinary, HIGHER-EDUCATION, ENVIRONMENT, INTEGRATION
  • TED University Affiliated: No


Sustainability is an issue of increasing importance in today's world. Institutions of higher education are undergoing change towards incorporating sustainable development principles within their teaching, research, service, and community outreach efforts. This article presents a case study of the development and implementation of one such initiative: a university-wide freshman course centered on the topic of sustainability. The objective of the course was to expose freshman students to important sustainability issues in a common course team-taught by faculty from various disciplines. The article presents experiences and recommendations as a guide to administrators, faculty and researchers at other institutions of higher education that plan to undertake similar endeavors. Based on experiences with the course, it is recommended that institutions that attempt a similar course should allocate significant time to develop the course, ideally a year in advance. The course concept was predicated on faculty members from widely differing disciplines coming together to teach a cluster topic. While this led to an interesting diversity in perspective, and introduced students to the multi-dimensional aspects of sustainability issues, it also resulted in divergent expectations among faculty and a lack of coherence in achieving the goals of the course initially set forth. A mechanism needs to be in place to coordinate faculty and their lectures within a cluster, and to prevent divergent expectations. An additional challenge that should be taken into consideration is the level of preparedness of freshman students to participate in a course that required high levels of critical thinking and analysis. In conclusion, the course has much potential to create a culture of caring for sustainability issues at an institution, as well as being a bonding experience for incoming freshmen. However, some restructuring is necessary to nurture the students to the point where they can engage in meaningful discussion of sustainability issues. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.