Solutions for Sustainability: What Does it Mean in Teaching?

Sustainability competencies are meaningful to any Aalto University graduate who wants to take on complex global challenges. Collaborate with Aalto Co-Educator to integrate solutions for sustainability into your course or curriculum. 
Teachers and students walking outdoors. They're discussion the Sustainability in Teaching course.
Photo: Aalto University / Roee Cohen

Given the urgent need to tackle sustainability challenges, the rationale for including sustainability solutions and related skills becomes clear. Industries seek to hire graduates and experts with an understanding of sustainability in their fields. Additionally, students exhibit keen interest in determining what they can do about sustainability issues.  

But what does 'solutions for sustainability' mean in teaching? 

To facilitate the process of integration of sustainability into teaching, the Aalto Co-Educator team designed a competency integration framework (Figure 1 below). The following competencies fall under Solutions for Sustainability: 

  • Knowledge about sustainability: A grasp of general and field-specific sustainability knowledge and skills. 
  • Systems thinking: Ability to analyse complex problems, their origins, their current status and context. 
  • Anticipatory thinking: Ability to craft future visions that foster sustainability. 
  • Values thinking: Ability to map, specify and reflect sustainability-related values. 
An image of the Competency Integration Framework drafted by the Aalto Co-Educator team.
Figure 1. Solutions for Sustainability competencies (from Aalto Co-Educator's competency integration framework).

To elaborate further on how the competencies support student learning, knowledge about sustainability and systems thinking can enable students to understand the depth and complexity of interconnected sustainability challenges. Anticipatory thinking provides a structure for creating and evaluating the immediate and future impact of ideas and solutions, while values thinking encourages reflecting on how personal values influence ideation and decision-making. 

Jussi Impiö
Image: Aalto University/ Jussi Impiö

Jussi Impiö, Head of Sustainable Solutions explains the concept of solutions for sustainability in education: "The cross-cutting theme of solutions for sustainability contributes to Aalto University's strategic purpose of shaping a sustainable future. We need to build educational offerings to serve the needs of a sustainable future. Sustainability skills penetrate our whole society – every job is a green job. At Aalto University we believe that achieving global wellbeing within planetary boundaries is possible. It takes investment in research and innovation and more effective collaboration with other societal changemakers."

Head and shoulders bio picture of Paula Schönach
Image: Aalto University/ Paula Schönach

Paula Schönach, sustainability expert, shares insights on developing teaching for sustainability: "Our professors are experts in teaching. I believe that they have great ideas on where to take sustainability education forward, what is important for sustainability in their field and how to get there in teaching. Having sustainability competencies as a starting point is one possible way of developing sustainability integration. I believe that this is a joint journey of developing teaching that needs to involve the pedagogical experts, the professors and lecturers, the teaching staff and students."

The Aalto Co-Educator team is responsible for the Sustainability in Teaching course, developed by Paula Schönach, Meeri Karvinen and Noora Jaakkola. The course serves as a platform to explore and discuss key competencies, themes and teaching methods among peers. The objective is to enable educators to incorporate and apply sustainability into their field-specific subject. 

Sustainability challenges are complex and dynamic, having global effects. Cultivating competencies in sustainability, creativity and entrepreneurial thinking will empower Aalto University students to confront these challenges, develop sustainable solutions and shape a sustainable future together.

Please register for the Sustainability in Teaching Course here. Enrolment is open until 12.2.2024.

If you would like to know more about integrating sustainability competencies into your course or curriculum, contact Aalto Co-Educator at [email protected]

We're ready to collaborate with you!

Find out more about the Aalto Co-Educator Project & Pedagogical Training

Students sitting around a table with laptops and discussing.

Aalto Co-Educator Team (ACE)

All Aalto graduates should have the capability to analyse and tackle complex sustainability challenges especially related to their own field, and to grasp opportunities for making a change.

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