Implementing a holistic process for embedding sustainability: A case study in first year engineering, Monash University, Australia

Geoffrey Rose, Kris Ryan, Cheryl Desha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


While there is clear recognition of the need to incorporate sustainable development into university curricula, there is limited research that examines how to achieve that integration or evaluates its impacts on student learning. This paper responds to these knowledge gaps through a case study of curriculum renewal that involved embedding sustainability into a first year engineering curriculum. The initiative was guided by a deliberative and dynamic model for curriculum renewal that brought together internal and external stakeholders through a structured sequence of facilitated workshops and meetings. That process identified sustainability-related knowledge and skills relevant for first year engineering, and faculty members teaching in the first year program were guided through a process of curriculum renewal to meet those needs. The process through which the whole of curriculum renewal was undertaken is innovative and provides a case study of precedent in the field of education for sustainability. The study demonstrates the contribution that can be made by a web-based sustainability portal in supporting curriculum renewal. Learning and teaching outcomes were evaluated through 'before and after surveys' of the first year engineering students. Statistically significant increases in student's self-reported knowledge of sustainability were measured as a result of exposure to the renewed first year curriculum and this confirmed the value of the initiative in terms of enhancing student learning. While applied in this case to engineering, the process to achieve integration of sustainability into the curriculum approach is likely to have value for other academic disciplines. Considering student performance on assignments and exam questions relating to sustainability would provide a stronger basis for future research to understand the impact of initiatives like this on student learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-238
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015


  • Collaborative stakeholder engagement
  • Evaluation
  • Learning outcomes
  • Sustainability curriculum renewal
  • Virtual learning environment

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