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Sustainability Improves Student Learning Convocation

Sustainability Improves Student Learning Convocation

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Sustainability Improves Student Learning Convocation

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  1. National Academy of Sciences Washington, DC Sustainability Improves Student LearningConvocation September 19-20, 2013

  2. Organizing Partners: Sustainability Improves Student Learning (SISL) Project Kaleidoscope Funded by:

  3. About the organizers… Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) • Founded in 1989; now part of the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) • Leading advocate for building and sustaining strong undergraduate programs in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) • Network of nearly 7,000 faculty members and administrators at more than 1,000 colleges, universities, and organizations • Far-reaching influence in shaping undergraduate STEM learning environments that attract and retain undergraduate students

  4. About the organizers… Disciplinary Associations Network for Sustainability (DANS)  • Helps higher education associations make education, research, and actions for a sustainable society an urgent priority • Network of over thirty academic disciplinary professional associations (with over 500,000 faculty members) • Sponsor - U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development

  5. About the organizers… Mobilizing STEM Education for a Sustainable Future • Launched in 2008 with funding from the National Science Foundation • Connecting the content and pedagogy of undergraduate STEM courses to real-world challenges (e.g., energy, water, climate change, and food stability) to both improve student learning and to prepare citizens to address these challenges

  6. Why sustainability? • The planet and its inhabitants are under unprecedented stress; • We have to educate about these issues and solutions to keep the planet livable; • The complex nature of our sustainability challenges are ideally suited for high impact teaching practices (e.g., project based learning, service learning1). • Sustainability as a theme within a course can meaningfully engage students within many disciplines and in diverse contexts2. • Kuh, G. (2008). High-impact educational practices: what they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges & Universities • Sherman, D. J. (2008). Sustainability: What’s the big idea? A strategy for transforming the higher education curriculum, Sustainability: The Journal of Record 1(3), 188-195.

  7. Why sustainability? • Relevance helps to sustain student motivation and enhance student learning3,4 • Students care about sustainability! In a 2012 student survey by the Princeton Review, 68% said having information about a college's commitment to the environment would impact their decision to apply to or attend a school. This commitment specifically included a college’s academic offerings5. • Our future workforce needs understanding and skills to address sustainability in their careers. All jobs that use resources are sustainability related jobs! • 3. National Research Council (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington DC: The National Academies Press. • 4. DeHaan, R. L. (2005). The impending revolution in undergraduate science education. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 14, 253–269. • 5. See survey results at

  8. The issues are urgent • Over 900m people face hunger; 1.4 billion live on less than $1.25 a day • Threats to life sustaining ecosystems increase economic and food insecurity in all countries • Climate change is: • Disrupting the food chain • Creating clean water scarcity • Displacing humans and destroying communities • According to key U.S. military, climate change is already creating scarcity of basic needs, threatening to increase governmental instabilities, and needs to be addressed by citizens as part of national security (Source:

  9. “The challenge of living on this emerging planet is the challenge of our time, exempting no one, no organization,no nation, and no generation.” David Orr, page xvi

  10. Potential tipping points • Can we close coal-fired power plants and decrease fossil fuel combustion fast enough to save the Greenland ice sheet? • Can we recognize that fracked natural gas can emit as much greenhouse gases as burning coal? • Can we address the root causes of rising food prices before civilization begins to unravel? Sources: Brown Ingraffea, “Gangplank to a Warm Future”

  11. (Source: Oxfam. The 11 dimensions of the social foundation are illustrative and are based on governments’ priorities for Rio+20. The nine dimensions of the environmental ceiling are based on the planetary boundaries by Rockström et al 2009b)

  12. From the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment URGENT – “Human actions are depleting Earth’s natural capital, putting such strain on the environment that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted.” Source:

  13. From the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment SOLUTIONS EXIST – “At the same time, the assessment shows that …it is possible to reverse the degradation of many ecosystem services over the next 50 years, but the changes in policy and practice required are substantial and not currently underway.” Source: GOOD NEWS: We can improve quality of life now while protecting the planet and its resources for future generations and for our retirements. What will be the legacy of our generation… denial or solutions?

  14. From the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment MISSING PIECE “The next generation of citizens will need to be knowledgeable enough about how human actions are threatening the health of the ecosystems to build the momentum for change.” (This is already happening internationally but U.S. students need to be more educated and engaged.) • Source:

  15. STRANGE BUT TRUEThe biggest source of planetary-boundary stress today is excessive resource consumption by the wealthiest of the world’s population, and the production patterns of the companies producing the goods and services that they buy. Such a destructive waste, given that happiness research shows us that this excessive consumption does not necessarily make us happier. Many faculty and students are not empowered and are apathetic about our societal challenges and don’t know what solutions are possible.

  16. We can provide students multiple learning opportunities for real-world problem solving to: • Understand our sustainability challenges • Develop the skills/knowledge to engage in systemic solutions • Understand why/how each discipline can contribute to these solutions

  17. Key Components of Quality Sustainability Assignments • Beyond doom and gloom • Focus on Solutions • Encourage students to understand and participate in systemic change Source-

  18. The Missing Piece • Most students take some form of earth science in 8th grade and then don’t take any more in high school or college. • This information must therefore be included in other disciplines or they will graduate illiterate about our sustainability challenges.

  19. Fixing The Missing Piece • STEM disciplinary societies know that humanities, social sciences and other disciplines bring crucial knowledge to the “solutions table”. • More good news: it is easy to integrate into all disciplines, and educational resources exist for your members.

  20. Sustainability Education Resources exist, but most faculty don’t know about them (e.g. SISL, resources from 13 Federal Agencies– tomorrow, each other). • Dissemination Gap

  21. From SISL’s Beginner’s Toolkit • Reasons why faculty will be interested in these educational resources. • You can use them all in multiple communications with faculty.

  22. Disciplinary/education organizations are uniquelysuited to: • Disseminate and highlight these educational resources for faculty via a sustained effortof communication with faculty • Provide professional development and a space for faculty to collaborate

  23. Summary: Education associations have made some great efforts but are uniquely positioned to do much more: • To disseminate key resources to faculty • To help coordinate/catalyze related research and professional development • To reduce massive human suffering • To educate our students about our sustainability challenges and engage them in potential solutions while improving learning • Through collaboration we can make this easier and enjoyable • This meeting will help catalyze these next steps

  24. About the initiative… • SISL leverages the influence of 11 STEM disciplinary societies to contextualize teaching and learning in terms of urgent sustainability challenges • These societies work together to use sustainability to underpin their programs, policies, strategic planning, and member activities

  25. Who is part of SISL? • Disciplines represented: • Physical sciences • Life sciences • Social sciences • Quantitative sciences/mathematics • Applied sciences/engineering • Outreach to more groups: • Presidentials • Humanities

  26. Structure of the SISL Initiative Organizing Partners: Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) [Kelly Mack and Catherine Fry] Disciplinary Associations Network for Sustainability (DANS) [Debra Rowe] Mobilizing STEM Education for a Sustainable Future [Cathy Middlecamp] External Evaluator: Barbara Holland Society liaisons Advisors: David Blockstein Myles Boylan Nat Frazer Mel George Kevin Hovland Jay Labov Judith Ramaley Disciplinary Society Partners: American Assn. of Physics Teachers (AAPT) American Chemical Society (ACS) American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) American Psychological Association (APA) American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Assn. for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) Mathematical Assn. of America (MAA) National Assn. of Biology Teachers (NABT) National Assn. of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) National Numeracy Network (NNN) Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE) 50+ society members and staff (including some liaisons) Public Policy (15) Audience Research (7) Prof. Develop- ment (14) Resources (23) Common Language (12) Textbooks (8) Project Teams Numbers indicate team size, including one or two leaders

  27. SISL Objectives • Increase visibility of sustainability in introductory STEM courses • Improve access to and promote useof resources that increase student learning in STEM • Promoteadoptionof curricular materials and pedagogies that focus on real world issues and Big Questions related to sustainability • Collaborate across participating societies to learn from each other about what works and what doesn’t • Connect and sustain the efforts of participating societies in pursuing common goals and leading others to join these efforts

  28. Project Teams • Develop & seek endorsement of common language on importance of & commitment to education for a sustainable future 2) Gather & disseminate resources to support infusion of sustainability into curricula 3) Implement interdisciplinary, problem-based professional development workshops on real-world societal challenges

  29. Project Teams, cont’d 4) Develop policy recommendations to include sustainability in STEM education & establish pathways for civic engagement 5)Conduct audience research to refine messages & guide communication about sustainability 6) Develop content for introductory STEM courses & improve publisher/author inclusion of learning activities on sustainability & problem-solving

  30. Ultimately, the goal of our initiative is to increase student learning in undergraduate STEM courses in order to better prepare them for playing a role in solving the 21stcentury “Big Questions" that relate to real-world issues such as energy, air and water quality, and climate change.

  31. Key Outcomes from the Project Teams • Audience Research • 9 conversations involving over 100 faculty at diverse institutions and various disciplines • Analysis will be part of formal report • Key findings • Interest in and need for teaching activities that can fit into existing course content • Many faculty are teaching topics relevant to sustainability, but not all identify them as such

  32. Key Outcomes from the Project Teams • Common Language • Statement on Education for a Sustainable Future (see page 29 of the meeting notebook) • Adopted by 3 of the SISL partner societies • In review at others • Related statements • plans to use this language when statements are renewed or in other communications (e.g. on their websites, in newsletters)

  33. Key Outcomes from the Project Teams • Professional Development • Faculty workshops at partner society conferences • Templates available for workshops that can be used by any discipline (both in-person and as webinars) • Adaptable evaluation tool available • Teaching activities have become part of the SISL collection on SERC

  34. Questions? Project site: Resource collection:

  35. Food: Providing the additional calories needed by the 13 per cent of the world’s population facing hunger would require just 1 per cent of the current global food supply.Energy: Bringing electricity to the 19 per cent of the world’s population who currently lack it could be achieved with less than a 1 per cent increase in global CO2 emissions.Income: Ending income poverty for the 21 per cent of the global population who live on less than $1.25 a day would require just 0.2 per cent of global income.

  36. National Academy of Sciences Washington, DC Sustainability Improves Student LearningConvocation September 19-20, 2013