College Learning for Sustainability Champions programme

Katie Paget is a Learning and Teaching Mentor within Dundee & Angus College’s Academic Development Team, additionally holding a post within the Science Team as a 0.5 FTE lecturer. Katie started her teaching career after completion of her PhD in 2010, holding a temporary contract while also working with Dundee Science Centre to promote science engagement within both schools and the community.

What was the main focus of your professional learning?

I took part in the College Learning for Sustainability Champions programme.

This was a 10-week project working with Learning for Sustainability Scotland (LfSS) and EAUC Scotland, with a lecturer from each curricular team across the college taking part to become a Learning for Sustainability (LfS) Champion within their team. There was a mix of face-to-face and online professional learning to develop our knowledge around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and LfS (or Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), the preferred global term now). Each of us then developed an activity for our students to embed what we had learned, and then shared our learning with colleagues. There was also an opportunity to work collaboratively between teams, with some cross-curricular projects being discussed and developed.

What form did your Professional Learning take?

The training was organised by the college with representatives from LfSS and EAUC Scotland delivering two sessions at the start and end of the project. During the project, there were online modules delivered through the University of Edinburgh Blackboard Virtual Learning Environment, with support through emails, discussion blogs and online sessions.

A key part of the project was to deliver something to students. As part of a Communications unit delivered to my Access to Life Science students, I based an area of learning around environmental issues and we discussed options for a debate topic. I decided to involve the students in the planning to help co-create the experience as I felt it was important that we chose something they were interested in. They chose the use of plastics in science and medicine. This started as a simple two-sided debate, but during their research, it became clear there were many areas for discussion. They got really involved and it expanded all our knowledge around the difficulties in removing single-use plastic from these essential areas.

As part of a curricular team, we also found other areas for embedding knowledge and getting students more involved. In the following academic year we had recycling ambassadors and became a Terracycle collection point. Although this is just one area of the SDGs, we as a team are more aware of these goals and the need to discuss and raise awareness with students as we move forward and plan learning. This year most of our curriculum team got involved with the SDG Teach In, covering a range of SDGs in subjects from chemistry to anatomy!

What was the impact of this Professional Learning?

I have increased not just my own knowledge but also my colleagues and cohorts of students over the last three academic years. We have found that there are many areas of our curriculum where we can link the SDGs, and now rather than just discussing the topic we make it explicit to our students that we are doing this, showing them the SDG, the main challenges faced globally and why our individual actions can be helpful.

What were your next steps following this professional learning?

I am also a Learning and Teaching Mentor within Academic Development, which has become a significant 0.5 FTE role since doing this training. I work closely with new lecturers through their Initial Teacher Education, on our D&A Lecturer Professionalism Pathway, mainly supporting those on our in-house Teach@D&A course, and their TQFE.

To further build my knowledge and to learn and share with others I undertook a further course with LFSS ‘Leading Change in Learning for Equity and Sustainability in Initial Teacher Education’ in autumn 2020. This really helped further my understanding of how we can create impact in an educational institute. It also provided opportunity to discuss with others in a similar role across the UK college sector how we can embed ESD within teacher training, and where the challenges are. Since then I have spoken on a College Development Network (CDN) Podcast and presented at CDNs first College Climate Change Conference, and the LfSS AGM regarding my work within D&A. I’ve also been provided with the opportunity to help shape the curriculum input to the D&A Climate Emergency Action Plan (CEAP), being able to share my views as a lecturer and mentor.

Through these opportunities, I am continuing my PL journey regarding sustainability and am helping to improve awareness of both the issues and what we can do to help with my own students, and also other lecturers. Through embedding Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) within the teacher training pathways we can support new lecturers to embed sustainability within their own teaching practice from the very start.

Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges in action

Themes of sustainability and the impacts of course-relevant decisions on people and the environment, should permeate teaching practice, inform it, and be made explicit to learners.

This course has been impactful and supportive of the themes around sustainability, increasing my awareness of the SDGs, not just environmental but wider societal challenges too.  Sharing these with students has been extremely valuable, for both me and them. I have not only enhanced my knowledge, understanding and practice but also the values I hold as a teacher and how I can help our students become responsible citizens.

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