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Student-led sustainability curriculum mapping at University of Liverpool Management School and Liverpool Guild of Students – piloting a new methodology

April 2, 2024

In 2022/23 SOS-UK worked with the University of Liverpool Management School (ULMS) and the Liverpool Guild of Students to develop and pilot a new curriculum mapping methodology supporting students to map their experience of teaching and learning against a set of sustainability criteria looking at what is taught and how, and the skills students are supported to develop.


The purpose of the curriculum mapping exercise is to provide the ULMS and the Guild with an understanding of how teaching and learning is supporting students to see the relevance of sustainability in their courses as well providing practical experience to equip students with skills and competencies to be able to contribute to a more sustainable world.


“[I] learned that teaching has a larger purpose than just exams and assignments.” Student

Student-led curriculum mapping to date

Since 2018, SOS-UK has worked with 16 institutions, and nearly 400 of their students to facilitate student-led curriculum mapping. The mapping methodology and support was developed in response to student demand for sustainability and experiential learning to develop sustainability skills, evidenced by SOS-UK's sustainability skills survey.

The original mapping methodology, developed in collaboration with the University of Winchester and Winchester Students’ Union, supports students to map sustainability criteria against module descriptors, reading lists and other documentary evidence of modules. Across institutions, student-led curriculum mapping has led to:

·       Student knowledge, understanding and transferable skills development – sustainability, auditing, team work, data analysis, critical thinking, global citizenship

·       Linking the SDGs to other initiatives within the institution and/or students’ union

·       Engaging teaching staff and senior leadership

·       Reporting on the SDGs and sustainability

·       Identifying areas of good practice, and areas for improvement

Mapping of student experience at the University of Liverpool Management School (ULMS) and Liverpool Guild of Students

In autumn 2022, ULMS and the Guild worked with SOS-UK to develop a new mapping methodology, asking students to map their weekly experiences of teaching, learning and assessment against the SDGs and other sustainability criteria, to determine how sustainability is embedded in both what students learn, and how they are learning and experiencing education, and to what extent.

Through this mapping, students are supported to think critically about the role their modules can play in contributing to sustainability and are offered a space to consider  each week of teaching and learning. Findings directly reflect students’ experiences of teaching and learning, amplifying student voice in this area of work, providing educators with in-depth data about SDG coverage and sustainability skills and how it was perceived by students across programmes.

16 students from ULMS and 65 students from the Guild were recruited to lead the mapping process, beginning with a training workshop to explore and understand key concepts related to the mapping, including sustainability, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and education for sustainable development (ESD), and how to critically engage with these concepts.

Students then mapped their weekly experiences of teaching and learning over the course of the year. Informal catch up sessions and check-ins supported students to keep on track and to reflect on the process. The mapping tool supports students to reflect on their experiences and perspectives of teaching and learning in an accessible format, whilst capturing in-depth and nuanced data to understand how sustainability is embedded in learning more widely.

“The process was really simple, easy and straight forward. It took very little time and I felt support was there if I needed it”. Student
“Thinking about my modules in a different has been the best part of being involved in this project”.  - Student


In the pilot year, ULMS mapped 52% of its 154 modules, and the Guild mapped 147 modules from Science and Engineering, Humanities and Social Sciences and Health and Life Sciences. Overall, students from ULMS and the Guild mapped 2,563 weeks of teaching and learning experienced by 81 students over the year.

Findings captured the extent to which topics related to the SDGs are embedded in students’ experiences of teaching and learning, the range of sustainability skills students are supported to develop in weekly learning and the teaching methods used that can contribute to an enabling environment for sustainability earning. For example, ULMS found that students were supported to develop critical thinking skills in 62.3% of all mapped weeks.

Feedback from students highlights the benefits of the experience in thinking differently about their education, skills development for future employment and ownership over and inclusion in sustainability work:

“Through the mapping, I felt more a part of my school and was able to meet lecturers and staff on a more personal level.”

“I feel admiration and a sense of success knowing that my ideas and experiences will make a difference.”

“The best part was being able to be a part of the university’s research.”
“I think through doing the project my knowledge of the subjects improved significantly. The mapping was great application for the modules”.

“[This project] helped me realise what I can bring to the table and how I can contribute in my future roles.”
Students at the Guild's 2022/23 online curriculum mapping training

Next steps

In the 2023/24 academic year, both the University of Liverpool Management School and Liverpool Guild of Students are working with SOS-UK to continue mapping remaining modules. Full data sets will be provided to Directors of Studies for each of the programmes at ULMS, to provide an evidence base for decision making around module and programme development.

SOS-UK and the Guild have also co-created statements on what a decolonized education and learning experience can look like, with students. In the 2023/24 mapping project, students are mapping their experiences of teaching and learning against these statements, determining to what extent their education aligns with their vision for decolonizing education. More information will be shared shortly.

ULMS will evolve their approach to sustainability work based on these findings, and share it with the University level sustainability working group, helping to inform the University’s approach to SDG curriculum mapping.