Integrating SDG across curricula
As PRME Blueprint’s puts it, business and economic schools have the potential to develop a critical lens on both theory and practice for implementing relevant SDG-driven policies across organizations. Enabling students to train in sustainable development, ideally at all academic levels, including Bachelors, Masters, PhD and Executive Education, is one of our key duties.
As part of our SDG Journey, we began to map the contribution of our academic programs for the SDG Agenda. The methodology adopted aimed to achieved the most comprehensive understanding of the school’s standing point and what further recommendations to follow. This analysis consisted on four main phases.
This focused on the development of a matrix model tool to frame sustainability in a holistic perspective. This involved the identification and description of i)know-how that learners should acquire, and ii) possible levels of engagement per course, with an emphasis on the results of learning. This matrix model integrates competencies and learning outcomes specified in three main categories, aiming to answer to key learning questions:
i) What are the SDGs?
Knowledge and understanding, or cognitive learning, in which courses are raising awareness and equipping students with knowledge and competencies they need to understand the SDG in relation to the areas of expertise being taught.
ii) How can future-ready students accelerate progress on SDGs?
Skills & applications, or behavioural learning, in which courses equip students acquire foundational skills, as well as analytical, problem solving and soft skills that enable them to respond to global challenges in assessed practical tasks;
iii) How can students communicate and report action on SDGs?
Monitoring & reporting, as a result of socio-emotional learning, in which courses spread the relevance of being accountable for sustainability and challenge students to question the status quo and produce tangible outputs, such as research proposals, reflective essays, case studies, concrete projects and more.
The application of this matrix model was grounded on a set of key words relevant to each SDG. Although there is no universally accepted set of SDG key words, our composed list resulted from a combination of relevant resources produced by our partners, which we hereby appreciate, namely: SDG Compass, Learn more about the SDGs, Non Business advancing the SDG and PRME’s Blueprint.
Mapping with use of SDG key words search illustrate how this systematic methodology could be applied holistically and ensures homogeneity throughout the assessment process.
This intended to apply the framework using the lens of Nova SBE syllabi. At this point, we analysed the Syllabi template to understand which areas were the most relevant to answer the matrix model developed. The three areas identified were: i) course unit aims & course unit content; ii) learning objectives;iii) assessment. Complementary to the analysis, we also looked into proposed bibliography and resources. At this point, it was fundamental to develop a quantitative assessment criteria in order to analyse such qualitative phenomena. Moreover, it was our aim to feed a database for further statistical analysis about Nova SBE’s standing point overall, and specifically in each educational level and academic program offered. The awarding points are not cumulative and do not intend to make a judgement of any kind.
This consisted of the analysis in itself and definition of the most important key performance indicators: number of courses analysed per academic program and which refers to the SDG strategy; percentage of existing courses per assessment criteria; percentage of existing courses promoting knowledge and understanding per educational level and through students’ learning journeys (i.e. per year at Bachelors level; per Area of Expertise at Masters level); cross-analysis between courses contributing to SDG and i) the five dimensions of People,Planet, Performance, Peace & Partnerships; and ii) syllabus's level of engagement towards impact.
This aimed to revise and provide an in-depth analysis to the assessment made to the Syllabi. With the approval of Nova SBE’s faculty, it was given access to the Moodle of the courses. At this stage, the analysis considered the theoretical and practical content available on Moodle, not always referred to in the course Syllabus.
After this analysis, we comprehend that there are two groups of disciplines. On the one hand, courses already challenging students to reflect and deepen their understanding on specific SDG, without stating it explicitly. On the other hand, courses which are focused on developing foundational skills – analytical,theoretical or technological – such as programming, calculus, algebra,statistics or research methods, and which the relation to a specific SDG (beyond the number 4) is not the most obvious. Nonetheless, despite the latter kind of disciplines, we have found that more than 50% of the courses in each academic level are already developing knowledge to at least one SDG.
As a result of this mapping, and willing to explicitly demonstrate the evidence found, we started the process of adding a new section in the Syllabi Template entitled “Course Impact Relation”. This new section includes a statement and the associated SDG image. Also, students’ survey will begin to include related questions, relevant to further support the mapping and perceived integration of the SDG language across the academic programs. In the future, it is our intent to support our Faculty to incorporate SDG-related examples on courses focused on developing foundational skills as well.
All in all, as a higher education institution, all courses are inherently related with the SDG 4, specifically 4.4 – “substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship”. Yet, there are specific courses which are also ensuring that these knowledge and skills developed are aligned with the competences needed to promote sustainable development (target 4.7).
Nova SBE’s 2nd edition of the Impact Report showcases the mapping – available soon.
Daniela M Afonso
PMO Role to Play | Teaching Assistant at Nova SBE | Research Assistant at Nova SBE Sustainability HubWebsite
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