< News

Responsible Futures support afternoon: ESD and Positive Outcomes for Students

January 15, 2024

The first Responsible Futures Support Afternoon of 2023/24 took place on 21st November, 2-5pm. At the session, staff and students from Responsible Futures partnerships  explored the positive outcomes of work related to Responsible Futures, including Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), on students, and how this can be monitored and evaluated in both the long and short term.

Head, heart, and hands

The first activity involved discussing positive outcomes of ESD using the head, heart and hands approach to transformative learning. In groups, participants discussed positive outcomes of ESD around the head (knowledge and learning), heart (social and emotional learning, and hands (practical skills and behaviours). In the second activity, participants explored how to monitor positive outcomes in the short and long term, specifically considering:

  1. Student capacity to provide feedback  
  1. Providing evidence that is relevant or speaks to senior leaders  
  1. Capturing insight that can be compared over time.  

Hearing from student leaders

Alyson Mackay (Teach the Future Campaign Coordinator) and Talia Hardie (Climate Action Plan Coordinator), SOS-UK student staff working on student-led campaigns, joined the session to share their experiences of ESD.  

Both Alyson and Talia highlighted the need for change in the UK education system around sustainable development and the climate crisis from a student’s perspective.  

Alyson spoke about how we can empower young people to create change through education and understanding the importance of responsibility we all have, to mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis. Alyson stated ‘we want young people to have access to resources to make informed decisions about their education’. To learn more about Alyson’s work, please see the Teach the Future campaign, a student-led campaign to repurpose the entire education system around the climate emergency and ecological crisis.

“We need to make sure, through education, they [young people] are not taught just the issues, but how to engage with the solutions” - Alyson Mackay

Talia spoke about experiences of the impacts of climate change during their childhood. In retrospect, Talia felt that ESD was strongly present in their formal education as a child, but much less so in higher education. This experience initially made them feel that studying in university was not the right step for them if they wanted to contribute to a sustainable and just world. However, they followed the climate activism route and are continuing to engage and empower young people and students.

Talia currently works on the Green Schools Revolution project at SOS-UK as a Climate Action Plan coordinator. This entails creating a structured climate action plan for primary and secondary schools.

“With engagement and dedication, change is possible” – Talia Hardie

Host Partnerships

In the second half of the session, 2023-24 host partnerships, UCEM and University of Strathclyde and Strath Union introduced their approach to measuring positive outcomes around ESD. UCEM discussed the importance of capturing the ‘humanness,’ in looking at positive outcomes for students and looking at qualitative evidence when capturing student data as a way of connecting with their students. UCEM created alumni case studies to track and celebrate how their alumni have progressed into their chosen careers and continued to focus on sustainability.

“Creating these case studies means having that connectivity and partnership that is beneficial to [alumni] and us as well” - Jessica Gordon-Calvert, Sustainability Education and Engagement Officer, UCEM

University of Strathclyde and Strath Union’s presented a platform called ‘Practera’ as a method of engaging with students on skills reflection when assessing their competencies via their Vertically Integrated Projects model programme. This programme encompasses the UNSDGs and ESD competencies within research projects. Students can reflect on their progress on the platform and this captures their feedback. The partnership can use feedback to measure outcomes. Using the platform ensures ESD is embedded into the partnerships programmes and becomes a part of the student learning experience.

“There is a lot to be gained from the student perspective and project perspective” – Dr Scott Strachan, Teaching Fellow in Strathclyde's Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, University of Strathclyde

Thank you to everyone who attended the support afternoon and a big thank you to Alyson and Talia for sharing their experiences of sustainable education and to our host partnerships - UCEM and University of Strathclyde and Strath Union for sharing good practice.

To learn more about Responsible Futures, check out our webpage!