Literature Review

A vast literature covers issues related to sustainability in the curriculum.  I outline the key points of three studies that relate specifically to course changes integrating sustainability and that have informed my analysis:

1.   Eisen and Barlett (2006) assessed the Piedmont Project at Emory University, looking at, among other things, changes made to courses and the effect of the Project on faculty pedagogy and the personal impact on faculty.   Eisen and Barlett provide some detail about the type of place-based pedagogy introduced as a result of the Project (i.e. “added two outdoor field trips integrating ethical implications of the human relationship to the environment”) but the study’s discussion of course changes is limited.

2.   Barlett and Rappaport (2009) completed a more in-depth analysis of course changes related to the Piedmont Project and the Tufts Environmental Literacy Institute (TELI) using data from surveys of faculty participants in these workshops.  This study does not explore possible relationships between the type of change and academic discipline; this is something I hope to incorporate in this study.  The inclusion of the survey instrument in the paper reveals how the authors asked respondents to classify the changes made to their courses.  Barlett and Rappaport asked respondents to characterize these changes using the following options: 1) new readings in existing courses, 2) new unit or module in existing course, 3) new lab, homework, exercise, research project or other assignment, or 4) new paradigm or course orientation.  Two other options were: the creation of a new course with an environmental or sustainability focus and “other.”  Most respondents indicated that the changes related to adding new readings and/or new units or modules in an existing course.  The numbers below are the percentage of courses modified or created with an eye to sustainability; 96 courses were modified at Emory and 44 courses were modified at Tufts.

  • 64% of Emory courses incorporated a new unit or module, compared to 63% of Tufts courses
  • 58% of Emory courses integrated new readings, compared to 34% of Tufts courses
  • 44% of Emory courses incorporated a new lab, homework, exercise, research project, or other assignment, compared to 47% of Tufts courses

3.   Chase (1998) provides an overview of the Ponderosa Project at NAU, including the Project’s history and mechanics.  This paper reviews the ways in which faculty have changed their courses, and, in order to “provide a clearer picture of these creative changes, and of the possibilities for a range of faculty,” provides an illustrative example of changes to courses in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences that have emerged from faculty participation in the Ponderosa Project.  I use Chase’s descriptions of changes to Medieval Art, Archaeology, and Organic Chemistry courses as a basis for the descriptions I generate in the Course Changes webpage.