Sustainable Development: An Introduction

Sustainable Development: an introduction,  Maastricht University (since 2010)

  • Program:  Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts
  • Lecturer:  Maud Huynen
  • Class size: approx. 80 students
  • Duration:  seven-week course, involving two two-hours tutorial meetings in groups of 10-12 students and one two-hour lecture (=36 contact hours); 5 ECTS
  • Learning outcomes: To gain a basic understanding of the (various perspectives on the) concept of sustainable development and some of the main related contemporary ideas, concepts and theories; To gain insights into (the limits to) our immense global human impact on the earth’s systems and the underlying drivers of these unsustainable trends;
    To evaluate the usefulness of some contemporary ideas about how to achieve a more sustainable society; To be able to translate and apply general theories and concepts of sustainable development to relevant case
  • Focus:  TBD
  • Student evaluation: a mid-term exam, a group poster-presentation and a final written exam.
  • Innovative approach: The course follows a problem-based learning (PBL) approach, whereby students discuss their readings in small groups, supervised and assisted by a tutor. Additionally, 2-3 relevant YouTube videos are included for each topic, which are mandatory additions to the readings.
    In the academic year of 2013/14, students of two tutorial groups decided to formulate personal sustainable consumption commitments (addressing, for example, meat, water or energy consumption, mobility or waste reduction). On a weekly basis, the groups discussed the difficulties they faced in trying to stick to their commitments, thereby reflecting on norms and institutions, infrastructures and personal likes and taste. This intervention was highly appreciated and well evaluated by the groups, also because it was their own initiative that could be accommodated within the relatively more flexible, student-focused framework of the PBL system.
  • Course evaluation: high ratings; students appreciate the interdisciplinary approach, the audio-visual materials (YouTube videos) and the poster presentations. Some indicate that the course made a change in their personal life as well. Example quote from the student evaluation form: “I appreciate that I can see back in the real world what I have learnt and I am glad this course has made me more aware of some of my unsustainable habits.”
  • Gaps: Some students indicate that they would like to have more information on how to become more sustainable themselves. Example quote from the student evaluation form: “Increase in information about what we can do in order to reduce our environmental impact.” Hence we are planning to add more information on sustainable consumption/living to this course.