Teaching Sustainability

UCF is making sustainability a high priority, not only in its operations, through better energy management and the adoption of “greener” designs and maintenance practices, but also in the curriculum and the classroom.  UCF offers sustainability programs like conservation biology and courses like environmental economics, and faculty in all disciplines are encouraged to integrate sustainability principles in their classes and to share their lessons and activities with their peers.

At UCF, we recognize the importance of teaching a world view based on the 3-e approach of ecology, economy, and equity.  We assume an epistemology of learning through connectedness and reflection, and we focus our efforts on

  • literacy and analytic competency across multiple disciplines,
  • experiential and service learning,
  • civic and academic engagement, and
  • personal and environmental wellness.

In a September 5, 2008 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Scott Carlson reports that, while many colleges and universities have made significant commitments to sustainability in their operations, “teaching and learning about sustainability has been in decline.”  At first, this trend may seem surprising, given the popularity of environmental topics in the media, but we have long recognized that the institutional momentum to specialize within disconnected disciplines, itself a logical if not, perhaps, necessary solution, is nevertheless at odds with the interdisciplinary and systems-based thinking required in sustainability studies.  Aware that these strategies compete for our time, resources, and world view, we offer resources to faculty who might choose any level of involvement, from introductory to comprehensive.

How and Why to Teach Sustainability

This resource by Peter Jacques is designed to help UCF faculty think about how to teach sustainability in their specific and individualized courses, and because sustainability is a truly interdisciplinary—perhaps even transdisciplinary field and includes so many realms of human existence it is hard to imagine an area or class that would have no relation. So sustainability can be a cross-cutting set of concerns that are widely available across the university curriculum. Indeed, sustainability is addressed at UCF through a number of venues, perhaps most importantly is the UCF Unifying Theme which provides materials for instructors and students about environmental affairs as a cross-cutting theme within the General Education Program. To augment these efforts, this resource is meant to spur on thinking about how to incorporate sustainability across any class based on the assumption that sustainability is something more than environmental improvement but is rather a structural concern. Some of these structural concerns are discussed in this  resource to provide some framework, especially for those who wish to incorporate sustainability into their class but have thus far elected not to due to a lack of familiarity.

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Mitchell Salter
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William Self
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