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Education for Sustainability – Exploring the Role of Asssessment

30th May 2016 @ 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Click here to view the Seminar Report

 Presenters:Dr. Charlotte Holland, School of Education Studies, Dublin City University and Director of the United Nations University (UNU) acknowledged Regional Centre of Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development for the greater Dublin region, RCE Dublin.Tanja Tillmanns, School of Education Studies, Dublin City University.Frida Besong, School of Education Studies, Dublin City University.Dr. Mark Kelly, Department of Building and Civil Engineering, Galway-Mayo Institute of TechnologyIreland currently faces a confluence of societal challenges in its transition towards a resource-efficient low carbon economy (EPA, 2012). To date, the Higher Education (HE) sector in Ireland has adopted a fragmentary approach to sustainability with some good practice being demonstrated through the Green Campus Programme, discipline-specific modules, postgraduate programmes, research and community engagement activities. Irish Government policy has recognising the role of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) by calling for it to be embedded at every level of the formal and informal education system (Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, 2012). The recently published, National Strategy for ESD in Ireland 2014-2020 (Department of Education and Skills, 2014) highlighted a number of priority action areas informed by gaps found in ESD leadership and coordination, ESD provision, curriculum development and professional development opportunities. In particular, the prepareness of lecturers to faciliate effective ESD learning was questioned in addition to an identified lack of awareness of ESD-focused research. This aligns with international research, which has identified a significant gap in guidance on how to empower students and staff to become sustainability leaders (Cebrián et al., 2012; Shriberg, 2012) and a lack of opportunities for university educators to develop ESD-specific competences (University Educators for Sustainable Development (UE4SD), 2014) and engage in ESD activities. It is clear that much of the progress made over the past decade has been due to isolated bottom-up initatives implemented by ESD champions.This seminar aims to address some of these gaps by acting as an incremental capacity-building catalyst to demonstrate opportunities inherent in assessment strategies and approaches that can contribute to a transition from learning about sustainability (accommodative) using narrow ‘bolt-on’ discipline-specific approaches to learning for sustainability (reformative) where the campus operations, curriculum and institute policy begin to be reconceptualised and finally on to capacity building (transformative) through informed experiential learning communities to bring about whole institutional change (Sterling, 2004; Jegatesen and Koshy, 2008; Ferrer-Balas, 2008; Fadeeva, 2010; Second Nature, 2012; Wals, 2012). The seminar will present a number of case studies exploring the following: 1. The use of ESD formative assessment methods in an undergraduate teacher education programme (assessment FOR learning). 2. The use of the revised New Ecological Paradigm scale to assess ‘worldviews’ of students (assessment FOR/OF/AS learning). 3. The development of an assessment framework to enable critical reflection amongst students engaging in ‘disruptive pedagogic’ interventions (assessment AS learning). 4. Assessing ESD competences focusing on students’ dispositions, abilities and behaviours at different points in time (assessment FOR/OF/AS learning). 5. Exploring the use of STEEP and foresight methodologies as pedagogical tools for ESD (assessment FOR/OF/AS learning). Learning Outcomes:The learning objectives of the seminar are as follows: 1. Provide an introduction to ESD, explore the concept of a sustainable university/institute and examine its application to a diverse range of disciplines. 2. Examine how different assessment strategies can enable students and staff to engage at different levels with the complexity and ‘wickedness’ of sustainability issues to promote capacity building to recognise ESD as an emergent core principle of higher education. 3. Explore the application of the ESD-related assessment initiatives through the lens of assessment FOR, OF and AS learning. 4. Suggest how future assessment strategies can contribute to a transformative learning space where curriculum, research, campus management and community engagement activities can be integrated to provide a holistic approach to ESD across programmes, departments and schools.


GMIT Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology
GMIT Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology


Mark Kelly