How sustainable is sustainability? Integrating learning outcomes in higher education curriculum

Ana Lebre, Miguel Silveira, Osvaldo Peuyadi, Diana Dias

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

Although it emerged in 1972 at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment - UNCHE, the term sustainability became widely disseminated at the Earth Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002. Since then, sustainability has been a growing concern of society given the challenges set by the 21st century, such as the demographic deficit, the preservation and maintenance of the environment, and the impact of technology in society. As the mission of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) is to research, teach and attend society, contributing to local and regional development, and in order to help society overcome the challenges presented to them in this field, HEIs have sought to include sustainability in the design of learning outcomes (LO) of their curricula. With the implementation of the Bologna Declaration, LOs were one of the tools found useful in changing the paradigm of the teaching / learning system, because LOs describe what students should demonstrate, represent or produce based on their academic pathways. As such, higher education should prepare and deliver to society a whole new generation of future leaders with the knowledge and vision on sustainability, thus able to contribute to the balancing of economic growth, social development and environmental equilibrium. The present study aims to identify and evaluate the extent to which sustainability is clearly and explicitly included in the LOs of the study cycles ministered by HEIs and, in particular to identify scientific areas of the same programs where sustainability is more present. Exploring a database with the LOs of all the higher education programs of the three study cycles offered by the Portuguese HEIs and which were subjected to (re)accreditation by the A3ES – Agência de Avaliação e Acreditação do Ensino Superior (the Portuguese Agency for Evaluation and Accreditation of Higher Education), in a total of 2990 degree programs. Based at first on a qualitative data analysis, it was verified that the term sustainability has a diffuse incidence, which may indicate some weakness in the integration of the concept in the academic curricula, therefore contradicting the present social concern regarding sustainability as a social goal. With the aim to contribute to the integration of learning outcomes-based sustainability into a university curriculum, the present study yielded a set of suggestions that require careful consideration.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationINTED2019 Proceedings
PublisherInternational Academy of Technology, Education and Development
Pages8318-8324
ISBN (Print)9788409086191
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes
Event13th International Technology, Education and Development Conference - Valencia, Spain
Duration: 11 Mar 201913 Mar 2019

Conference

Conference13th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Country/TerritorySpain
CityValencia
Period11/03/1913/03/19

Keywords

  • Sustainability
  • Learning outcomes
  • Sustainability-across-the-curriculum
  • Higher education institutions
  • University curriculum

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