WIT Press

Developing Sustainable Development


Free (open access)





Page Range

557 - 566




273 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


B. Tomkinson, C. Engel, R. Tomkinson & H. Dobson


Ralf Brand and Andrew Karvonen (The ecosystem of expertise: complementary knowledges for sustainable development. Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy, 3(1), pp 21–31, Spring 2007) suggest that sustainability poses challenges to the discourse of technical experts and that many existing models do not fit with traditional disciplinary boundaries. In this context, the education of engineers and scientists in sustainability literacy has to be regarded afresh. Brand and Karvonen argue for the development of ‘meta-experts’ who have ‘... a clear understanding of what specific disciplines can and cannot contribute to problems of sustainability.’ Our own approach arose from a concern for developing graduates to tackle and ameliorate global issues, many of which might be deemed as problems of sustainability and all of which might be considered as ‘wicked’. To that end, higher education has to be seen as inter-disciplinary, student-centred and problem-based. As part of the development of these ideas, we obtained funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering to design and run a pilot module on sustainable development for engineers and scientists. This paper looks at the curriculum design process, the development of the case studies used, the mode of assessment (including the use of modified essay questions) and the way in which the programme was received by students and facilitators. The mode of delivery was essentially that of problem-based learning and small groups, drawn from across one science and three engineering programmes, were each facilitated by a post-doctoral researcher who was specially trained for the task. The students undertook a readiness for inter-professional learning questionnaire, a learning styles questionnaire and a self-evaluation questionnaire both in the initial stages and at the end of the pilot programme and these have formed part of the evaluation. The principal means of evaluation, however, has been through a nominal group process, both for students and for facilitators. The results of these evaluations form the final part of the paper. Keywords: curriculum design, inter-disciplinarity, staff development, student development, sustainable development.


curriculum design, inter-disciplinarity, staff development, student development, sustainable development.