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Sustainable Food Curriculum Co-create – Empowering the Student Voice

This paper will outline the current National Forum for Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education- SATLE Funded Technological University Dublin project ‘Sustainable Food Curriculum Co-Create’. The project’s goal is to build capacity for integrating sustainability learning outcomes across Food programmes through educator professional development and co-creation with students. This is being achieved through the piloting of Food sector-focused sustainability modules with co-learning for academic staff and students (5 ECTS CPD in Educating for Food Sustainability for academic staff and 5 ECTS Elective module in Food Sector Sustainability for students). Curriculum design involved several stakeholders in Education for Sustainable Development from across the Food System including enterprise and state organisations who advised on sector-specific sustainability issues, food experts from across several Schools, and sustainability experts from across the University and beyond. It also was informed by industry publications and policy frameworks. A co-creation approach was adopted as sustainable development is complex, requiring transdisciplinary problem-solving where knowledge emerges between established fields, providing space for alternative perspectives and innovative solutions. It should be influenced by viewpoints of all stakeholders, including students, enterprise, regulatory bodies, communities, and social partners [1].

Curriculum delivery included peer-lectures from staff participating on the module, lectures from experts from across the University, as well as non-academic experts who were invited to deliver key industry related elements.

The student voice is captured through co-creation workshops and reflective exercises. All participants in the modules were asked to complete a reflection-in-action, which was designed to document learning transformation in knowledge, values and behaviours. All co-creation workshops were facilitated online using MS TEAMS breakout rooms. The first workshop focused on evaluating the embeddedness of sustainability within individual module descriptor by applying the AASHE-STARS [2] criteria for sustainability-focused and sustainability-related courses. Guided by the SDSN’s SDG keywords [3], a mapping of selected module’s learning outcomes, indicative syllabi, assessments and learning resources to the SDGs was also undertaken by students and staff and opportunities for enhancement were identified. Each breakout room contained a mix of staff and students who were familiar with the respective modules for evaluation. An additional workshop was run to evaluate the circularity of module delivery using SusTEACH [4]. Finally, a third workshop focused on design thinking as a problem-solving process, supported by creative online tools, for addressing super-wicked problems posed by the sustainability challenge.

The assessment strategy of the Food Sector sustainability modules involved (1) reflection of personal development throughout the module, as well as on improving performance in the UN supported online multiple-choice question sustainability literacy test (SULITEST); (2) artifacts generated during the workshops and (3) for academic staff, reviewing one of their module descriptors to embed sustainability learning outcomes.

Whilst staff and students were each enrolled on different versions of the programme, the underlying ethos was on co-learning. As partners equally vested in a transformative learning process for a rapidly evolving field of study, the paper will highlight the potential for impact that the project will have on catalysing action to review the School’s food education provision.

[1] QAA (2014) Education for sustainable Development: Guidelines for UK Higher Education Providers. Higher Education Academy and UK QAA.

[2] Technical Manual - The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (

[3] Universities & SDGs | SDSN Australia, New Zealand and Pacific (


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