Sustainability in Education

As a member of The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), Wooster is committed to improving sustainability on campus. As a requirement for AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), the Environmental Studies Program Committee has adopted the following definition of sustainability courses:

“Sustainability” is understood as referring to practices that meet the needs of today without compromising the ability to meet those needs in the future, emphasizing the interdependence among economic, social, and ecological needs.  Sustainability can and must be approached from multiple disciplinary perspectives, including those of natural science, social science, arts, and humanities. However, individual courses may not include all of these perspectives.

    • Sustainability-focused courses concentrate on the concept of sustainability, including its social, economic, and environmental dimensions and the relationships between them; or examine their core content explicitly using sustainability as a lens.
    • Sustainability-related courses incorporate sustainability as a distinct course component or unit, or concentrate on a single sustainability principle or issue during the course.

The specific criteria for designation of sustainability-focused courses are:

    • Sustainability is a major theme, though not necessarily the sole theme, of the course.
    • Explicit reference to sustainability is included in the course syllabus.
    • Course learning goals support attainment of at least two of the sustainability competencies and dispositions listed below.
    • Students engage in deep and focused exploration of sustainability and its multiple dimensions
    • Students consider and practice effective communication of sustainability issues, analysis, and recommendations
    • The course enhances student ability to generate recommendations and/or solutions to sustainability problems.

The specific criteria for designation of sustainability-related courses are:

    • The course explicitly draws connections between its content and sustainability.  The connections cannot merely be implied.
    • Course learning goals support attainment of at least one of the sustainability competencies and dispositions.
    • Students learn how knowledge and methods from a specific field can be applied or made relevant to inquiries about sustainability, and develop their competencies in knowledge and methods of that field.

Sustainability competencies and dispositions include the following:

    • Basic grasp of the philosophical or theoretical frameworks through which to view environmental and sustainability issues
    • Understanding of historical patterns that have produced modern challenges to sustainability
    • Understanding the resources provided by the natural environment, their interactions through life-cycle relations and assessment of their availability and accessibility
    • Understanding of the complex social networks, power dynamics, and global systems of power in which sustainability issues exist (i.e., connections between social sciences and sustainability)
    • Ability to analyze literature, non-fiction, arts, and architecture that have some bearing on sustainability issues past and present  (i.e., connections between humanities and sustainability)
    • Understanding of the scientific method and the laws of science and how they apply to natural systems and environmental issues (i.e., connections between natural sciences and sustainability)

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