The interdisciplinary elective “Sustainable Development” designed for students across all disciplines at the University of Klagenfurt endeavours to use innovative teaching methods. These have recently been subject to an independent evaluation.
“Sustainable development” is one of the defining future topics at universities. At the University of Klagenfurt, a dedicated elective module has been introduced to address this need. As innovative content should be taught by means of innovative methods, some key principles were already defined in the lead-up to the elective, in order to meet the requirements of sustainable teaching. In light of some current empirical literature, the team of course lecturers decided that the teaching and learning methods to be chosen within the elective Sustainable Development have to be based on the following principles: inquiry-based learning, problem- and research-based learning and building of learning communities. Additionally, Sustainable Development has to be viewed from different disciplines. Hence, the course contributes to fulfilling the requirements of Education for Sustainable Development in higher education, while helping students to gain important theories, competencies and methods to meet the demands of the present time and to ensure a future that is worth living.
With a view to ensuring that it is possible to learn from the experience of the elective, the students were subsequently interviewed by an independent expert. The results are many and varied and relate to every level in the implementation of sustainability in an organisation. In terms of innovations in teaching, the following emerged: Pedagogical innovations are always unique, depending on the institutions involved, the region, historical paths and the educational culture in which they are embedded and last but not least, on the acting personalities. Contributing to sustainable development at all levels – in teaching, research and organisation – requires a willingness to continue learning on the part of students and teaching staff alike.
Photo credits: Arnold Pöschl