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Sustainability in learning (learning design)


Katja Danska

lehtori, pedagogiikka
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Crister Nyberg

Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Katja Wirenius

lehtori, pedagogiikka
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Maiju Kokkonen

Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 24.03.2023

This podcast is about sustainability development and responsibility in education and more specifically about ethnical sustainability in university studies.  Podcast is produced and used as part of KESTO project and Ulysseus European University mentoring programme.

Podcast in text form

Interviewer 1 [00:00:04]: Welcome to listen to the Higher Education Pedagogy podcast which is produced by Kesto project and its network partners, like Haaga-Helia and the European university Ulysseus. The Kesto project’s network researches and develops ethical sustainability expertise in cooperation with working-life partners and university students and teachers. My name is Katja Danska, and I am working in Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences as a Senior Lecturer of Teacher Education. This podcast is about combining university studies with learning in work life. Here with me are the colleagues Crister Nyberg…

Speaker 1 [00:00:53]: Hello!

Interviewer 1 [00:00:53]: And Kirsi Hämäläinen.

Speaker 2 [00:00:55]: Hello, pleased to meet you!

Interviewer 1 [00:00:57]: You too. So, Crister, can you define the topic in this broadcast first?

Speaker 1 [00:01:04]: Yes. So, my name is Crister Nyberg, and I’m also working here in Haaga-Helia in teacher education, especially in guidance counsellor education. Today we are discussing the role of ethical sustainability in higher education, pedagogics. And I think it includes, essentially, working-life cooperation. So, sustainable development and responsibility with their economic, social, and environmental dimensions are, of course, teams that should be built in all higher education pedagogy. And, as always, in the beginning of implementing new topics, there is a stage where you need an expert to tell what the concepts mean, and what they mean in practice. However, for example, sustainability, climate change, and responsible actions are not new concepts any more. It is a gradual process, how we more and more are capable of seeing virtual sustainability-coloured classes. Enhancing sustainable development requires competences, from context-dependent practical skills to theoretical-thinking skills. Also, theoretical-thinking skills may be context-specific when we are dealing with particular branches of science, giving solutions to sustainability issues. But for me, ethical competence is in the core of sustainability in learning and in pedagogical practices. The basics are built in inclusive practices. Ethical competence is also a competence that explores whether the values are followed, recognising conflicting values.

Interviewer 1 [00:02:55]: Thank you, Crister. Sounds very interesting. Could you define more about this ethical sustainability and expertise among universities and working life in this long-term cooperation?

Speaker 1 [00:03:11]: Yes. I think ethics is also about responsibility, and responsibility starts from creating opportunities for dialogue and cooperation. That is included in all pedagogical practices. What comes to working-life cooperation, I think shared projects and goal-settings with the framework we can stand for are the keys for development. So, open discussion on ethical issues is also very important, since we are all experts from our points of view. And then, finally, uniting elements in our views creates new ideas for further cooperation.

Interviewer 1 [00:03:56]: Yes, I agree with you. I think inclusion in general is very important and makes a student part of the community and the whole society. Enhancing these skills is important and relevant. And whatever we do, we look at things from a sustainable perspective, like in sustainable lenses. Social networking, locally, nationally, and internationally is important for teachers and students in general in order to understand each other, to avoid ‘living bubbles’, that everybody thinks the same. So, in order to think differently, to understand each other, to be cooperating, and especially listening to each other. So, team-building skills and providing a safe place to study, to live, and diversity is an asset that is beneficial to everybody. And when we are dealing with different cultures and backgrounds, also lots of emphasis is on listening skills in general. So, Crister, what is the role of teachers in promoting sustainability in your opinion?

Speaker 1 [00:05:29]: Well, it may sound challenging, but I think that it is important that sustainable way of thinking is involved in all pedagogical practices. And, of course, teachers are also learners in this. We, as teachers, should be ready to question our own thoughts and also create safe space for dialogue and varying opinions. It is not easy to apply sustainable practices to all contexts, but that is really the core skill. Teachers are role models in a sense that they have the ethical responsibility to enhance responsible practices. Thus, all the student-centred practices and inclusive working environments are under constant development. Or what do you think, Katja?

Interviewer 1 [00:06:21]: Absolutely. It’s a constant development. I think the key role in every aspect of learning design is how to make it possible for students to participate as much as possible. When you have the feeling that you are part of something, part of these studies, you are more motivated to be active and learn, and there are many studies that confirm this. I think when you are part of something, there will be less drop-outs as well. So, when you are motivated and part of something, you don’t want to miss it, you don’t want to get off the train. And guidance is a key word as well. If you put effort into guidance as much as possible, it will pay back later. Even though it needs resources, it’s very important to have it. And I have seen it in my work as a teacher many times. So, there are many good practices that are developed, and there are also good practices used locally and nationally, and internationally as well. What do you think, Kirsi? Do you have some examples of good practices?

Speaker 2 [00:07:39]: I enjoyed your conversation. I would add psychological safety. Safety was mentioned already, but we should give time for the students to get to know each other and create trust in each other. I think that’s a key element for any conversational teaching method we can use. We can give time for that. Another thing that comes to my mind is that we teachers, and as a university, we set an example of what kind of work-life culture we are actually giving them, what kind of conversational culture we have, is there psychological safety in our work environment when we are working with the students. So, it’s not the same, what kind of working culture we have here at the university.

Interviewer 1 [00:08:37]: I agree.

Speaker 1 [00:08:39]: Me as well.

Interviewer 1 [00:08:41]: Very well said. I think, for example, sustainability… We could add to this how it can be enhanced in schools. That should be something to consider for everybody who is listening to this podcast. But any final thoughts on that, Crister?

Speaker 1 [00:09:06]: Thank you for the discussion. I think we can set that challenge for all the teachers and students, and all the university staff, that it belongs to us all to enhance these things, and it’s actually in every practice that we do every day. These things are really visible, this ethical part especially.

Interviewer 1 [00:09:33]: Yes. So, let the ethical discussion continue. Thank you!

Speaker 1 [00:09:39]: Thank you!

Speaker 2 [00:09:40]: Thanks!