Sustainability is receiving increasing amounts of attention in higher education in terms of how it can best be integrated with university curricula. Sustainability is closely related to complexity, innovation, and interdisciplinarity; therefore, it requires alternative approaches rather than traditional, lecture-based pedagogy. This paper reports an educational initiative and research project based on collaboration between Beijing Normal University, China and Aalborg University, Denmark: developing a sustainability curriculum using the methodology of Problem and Project Based Learning (PBL) in a Chinese context. A theoretical framework is established to understand and analyze the culture’s change toward a sustainability curriculum that employs PBL methodology. Empirical work is drawn upon first year results from the implementation of this methodology in an engineering and science curriculum. Data generation is based on multiple collection methods, such as survey of students’ feedbacks, interviews with students, and analysis of students’ project reports and reflection essays. This paper summarizes that a sustainability curriculum as proposed in this research can attract students’ interests in not only mastering relevant knowledge, but also in developing necessary skills and competencies. PBL as a teaching and learning method can successfully facilitate participative learning, critical reflection, systemic thinking, creativity, and cultural awareness, which are the core values of sustainability. However, implementing a new curriculum with new teaching and learning methods can be more complex than expected. Many issues impact the implementation process and are therefore remain challenges to further development; for example, how to change the existing grading system, how to provide both teaching staff and students’ with prior knowledge about the new PBL methods, how to gain institutional support, and how to change the broader societal and cultural values.
Journal of Cleaner Production, 2013, Vol 61, p. 80-88
PBL Innovative pedagogy Sustainability curriculum Case study China