Sustainability Learning Community

The Sustainability Learning Community is a joint project between the McGill Office of Sustainability (MOOS) and Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) to explore integrating sustainability into the undergraduate experience. (2014-2016)

Context

  • Sustainability is already an important theme within the spheres of operations, research, and student life at McGill.  It has also emerged as an important force in the academic sphere, but it is generally relegated to specific programs or courses that only reach a limited number of students with a professed interest in this area. 
  • “ESD [Education for Sustainable Development] is about the learning needed to maintain and improve our quality of life and the quality of life of generations to come ... ESD enables people to develop the knowledge, values and skills to participate in decisions about the way we do things individually and collectively, both locally and globally, that will improve the quality of life now without damaging the planet for the future.”1
  • Coursework is the ideal avenue through which to reach all students at McGill.
  • Determining how to integrate sustainability into coursework is a complex process and thus requires that instructors have the time and support necessary for designing or redesigning their courses and programs in ways that promote meaningful student learning in sustainability.

Project Overview

  • Goal: Transform approaches to teaching within coursework so all McGill students, upon completion of their degrees, will be engaged citizens with the knowledge, skills, and perspectives necessary to address the goals of Vision 2020 and the grand challenges of the 21st century.

  • Project: A network of learning communities (LCs) whose members take an inquiry-guided approach to discovering how best to integrate sustainability into courses and/or programs. Pilot project launched with faculty and students from Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (FAES) and Department of Integrated Studies in Education (DISE).

Milestones

  1. Established a learning community made up of faculty, students, and staff
    • Held monthly meetings on both campuses beginning in December 2014;
    • Created networking opportunities for faculty and students;
    • Developed a shared understanding of learning outcomes related to sustainability;
    • Integrated the expertise of individual members by documenting their approaches to integrating sustainability into the undergraduate experience. This was done through one-on- one interviews. 
  2. Conducted background research
    • Held consultation process to glean lessons learned from other faculty learning communities on campus;
    • Created a summary document of discipline-specific approaches to inquiry-guided learning at McGill and elsewhere;
    • Investigated inquiry-guided learning as an approach to institutional development (sub-group attended Inquiry as a Way of Learning Institute at Emory College, April 2014);
    • Created a summary document of key sustainability issues of relevance to higher education – both in terms of content and instructional strategies;
    • Developed a benchmarking report focusing on initiatives that linked teaching, learning and sustainability (mostly focusing on G15 institutions). 
  3. Shared our learning with the community​​​
    • A blog post about the learning community;
    • A short video;
    • TLS hosted a university-wide symposium where we started a conversation about learning outcomes related to social, economic, and ecological responsibility and how they can be translated into actual learning experiences for McGill students. This learning community acted as incubator for ideas and strategies for this event.

Sustainability Learning Community members meeting around a table


[1] Sterling, S. (2012) Framework for Future Fit. Retrieved May 5, 2016 https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/future_fit_270412_1435.pdf

McGill University is located on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabeg nations. McGill honours, recognizes and respects these nations as the traditional stewards of the lands and waters on which we meet today.