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Implementing an Interfaculty Elective "Sustainable Development": an Intervention into a University's Culture between Organized Scientific Rationality and Normative Clain

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Abstract

A university is a place of organized scientific rationality, but as a social institution it is also committed to future generations. Therefore, it can be argued that universities should act as "models for sustainability". It is thus not sufficient to spend public funds efficiently in achieving their educational mission. Beyond that, the social and the environmental effects of their actions also have to be considered. Having this in mind, the status quo of sustainability in research, teaching, and administration at the Alpen-Adria University Klagenfurt in Austria was examined in 2010. Results showed that although important approaches and several internationally acknowledged contributions in research and teaching do exist, at the same time a concise and focused strategy for these actions is missing. However, there was some commitment that a coherent strategy would strengthen our University. The major challenge is that a system based on individual freedom in research and teaching needs to intervene in order to create, implement and live such a strategy. The conception and implementation of an interdisciplinary elective open for all Master and PhD students seemed to be a first appropriate step to implement sustainability at the University across disciplinary and structural borders. To increase general acceptance of such an intervention and to cause impacts towards sustainability at the university as a whole an interfaculty approach was chosen. The corresponding processes and challenges are described in this chapter.
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DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5856-1.ch026
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A university is a place of organized scientific rationality, but as a social institution it is also committed to
future generations. Therefore, it can be argued that universities should act as “models for sustainability”.
It is thus not sufficient to spend public funds efficiently in achieving their educational mission. Beyond that,
the social and the environmental effects of their actions also have to be considered. Having this in mind,
the status quo of sustainability in research, teaching, and administration at the Alpen-Adria University
Klagenfurt in Austria was examined in 2010. Results showed that although important approaches and
several internationally acknowledged contributions in research and teaching do exist, at the same time
a concise and focused strategy for these actions is missing. However, there was some commitment that a
coherent strategy would strengthen our University. The major challenge is that a system based on indi-
vidual freedom in research and teaching needs to intervene in order to create, implement and live such
a strategy. The conception and implementation of an interdisciplinary elective open for all Master and
PhD students seemed to be a first appropriate step to implement sustainability at the University across
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Renate Hübner
Institute of Intervention Research and Cultural Sustainability, Alpen-Adria University, Austria
Franz Rauch
Institute of Instructional and School Development, Alpen-Adria University, Austria
Mira Dulle
Institute of Instructional and School Development, Alpen-Adria University, Austria
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This chapter describes the developments of the
Alpen-Adria-University Klagenfurt, and mile-
stones in the field of Sustainable Development
(SD). The University founded in 1970 for “Edu-
cational Sciences” evolved into an institution with
five different disciplinary approaches: three con-
ventional faculties (Cultural Studies, Economics
and Business Administration, Informatics), one
inter- and transdisciplinary Faculty and a School of
Education. The rather young university - compared
to other universities in Austria (the University of
Vienna was founded 1365) - focused from its very
beginning on linking research and teaching to its
relevance in societal practice. The IFF-Faculty
for interdisciplinary studies (founded 1979 by six
Austrian universities as an inter-university institute
for interdisciplinary approaches in research and
education) has always played a very specific role.
It became a faculty at Klagenfurt University in
2004. This faculty bundles scientists from differ-
ent disciplines around a societal problem together
with the parties involved. Their work is based on
intervention oriented approaches in research and
teaching such as group dynamics, action research,
intervention research and others. From very early
in the 1990ies ecological problems have been seen
as a huge social and cultural challenge, leading to
specific approaches to the concept of sustainability
internationally as accepted in science and politics,
such as social metabolism and social ecology or the
cultural sustainability approach and the concept
of intervention research as well as approaches of
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).
Therefore it was no surprise that the Alpen-
Adria University Klagenfurt earned the Sustain-
ability Award commissioned by the Austrian
Federal Ministries of Sciences and Environment
for its IFF-Faculty for Interdisciplinary Studies
in 20081. As a consequence Renate Hübner and
Franz Rauch, the initiators of the submission, were
authorized to research the status quo of sustain-
ability throughout the whole university in research,
teaching and organization. An investigation based
on the approach of Intervention Research (Heintel,
2005; Hübner, 2012; Krainer & Lerchster, 2012)
of the status quo of sustainability at the University
(Hübner, Hadatsch & Rauch, 2010) made many
initiatives and approaches2 also in other faculties
and administrative areas visible. At the same time
it showed that these initiatives were not linked
with each other and existed without a unifying
or at least joint strategy. This, even though the
development plans of the Alpen-Adria University
Klagenfurt since 2006 have included sustainability
as highly relevant from a social and cultural science
perspective, as the following milestones prove:
2005: Implementation of a Master’s program in
social and human ecology
2006: Implementation of an In-Service University
Course and a network “ESD Innovation in
Teacher Education”
2007: Implementation of a professorship for
environmental history
2007: Implementation of an Institute of Interven-
tion Research and Cultural Sustainability
2008: Winner of the Sustainability Award
(category “communication and decision
processes”) of the Federal Ministry of Sci-
ence and Research as well as the Federal
Ministry of Agriculture, Environment and
Water management for IFF-Faculty of In-
terdisciplinary Studies
2009: Examination of the status quo of sustainabil-
ity in research, teaching, and administration
at the University of Klagenfurt
disciplinary and structural borders. To increase general acceptance of such an intervention and to cause
impacts towards sustainability at the university as a whole an interfaculty approach was chosen. The
corresponding processes and challenges are described in this chapter.
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2011: Implementation of sustainability within
the strategy process of the University of
Klagenfurt as one of the future inter-faculty
core research areas and assignment to de-
sign and implement an inter-faculty elective
“Sustainable Development”
2012: Winner of the Sustainability Award of the
Federal Ministry of Science and Research as
well as the Federal Ministry of Agriculture,
Environment and Water management
The corresponding processes while imple-
menting the milestones are characterized by an
attitude of partnership and open discourse about
different conceptions of sustainability, this also
holds for the case described in this chapter, the
conception and implementation of the Interfaculty
Elective “Sustainable Development,” initiated
and financed by the IFF-deanship and led by the
authors of this case study.
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This chapter describes the understanding of
Sustainable Development which was and is the
basis of our work, especially with regard to sus-
tainable development at and by the Alpen-Adria
University Klagenfurt. As with human rights,
sustainable development (SD) may be regarded
as a regulative idea (Kant, 1787). Such ideas do
not indicate what an object consists of but serve
as heuristic structures for reflection. They give
direction to research and learning processes. In
terms of sustainability this implies that inherent
contradictions, dilemmas and conflicting targets
need to be constantly re-negotiated in a process of
discourse between participants in each and every
concrete situation (Minsch, 2004). This means a
great challenge but also offers considerable po-
tential for enhancing innovative developments in
education (Tschapka, 2012).
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
originated in the context of worldwide discussions
concerning the complex correlations between
environmental change and people’s living con-
ditions. The idea of ESD has been implemented
as the UN decade of “Education for Sustainable
Development“ (2005-2014) and aims at fostering
education and learning processes as driving forces
for change to create a broad basis for sustainable
development (United Nations Educational, Scien-
tific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO], 2006).
Based on the understanding of education in
the tradition of enlightenment, the link between
sustainable development and education can be
described as follows: Sustainable development is
integral to the general mandate of education: its
humanistic aim emphasizes the self-development
and self-determination of human beings as they
interact with the world, their fellow humans, and
themselves (Rauch, 2004). Ideally, ESD thus en-
ables the next generation to establish a reflective
and responsible society that respects natural and
ecological constraints. ESD fosters the capabil-
ity of individuals as well as of society to rethink
and develop the values, principles and practices
necessary to respond effectively to current and
future challenges (Stoltenberg, 2010).
Over the last few years the ESD concept has
been extended to higher education. In conclu-
sion of their analysis of sustainable university
research and development Beringer and Adomßent
(2008) conclude that Sustainability in Higher
Education – conceived as institutional, systems-
level sustainable university research and devel-
opment remains an emerging field involving
philosophical reflections, theoretical-conceptual
analysis, empirical research, theorizing as well
as knowledge mobilization and capacity build-
ing. Transdisciplinary research projects promise
rich opportunities to grow higher education as
the catalyst for a sustainable global society. Al-
though the question as to whether this signals a
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fundamental shift of policy and practice remains
still unresolved (Sterling & Scott, 2008).
In its new research framework program, Ho-
rizon 2020, the European Union identified six
major current and future challenges (European
Commission, 2011, p. 5):
Health, demographic change and
wellbeing;
Bio-economy (food security, sustainable
agriculture, marine and maritime research);
Energy (secure, clean and efficient);
Transport (smart, green and integrated);
Environment (Climate action, resource ef-
ficiency and raw materials);
Inclusive, innovative and secure societies.
These challenges are directing current and
future research and sustainable development will
be an overarching objective of Horizon 2020.
Thus, thinking and acting in a sustainable way
requires not only disciplinary knowledge and
openness for approaches within other disciplines,
but also a specific political and moral attitude as
a citizen of planet earth. From this requirement
two main questions arise regarding education in
general as well as learning and teaching Sustain-
able Development:
Which methods of teaching and studying
are adequate to fulfil these requirements at
university level?
How can the teaching of sustainable atti-
tudes and approaches be implemented into
the university system?
To sum up with regard to implementing SD in
the university’s culture one has to see clearly that
ESD lies between the contradictory contexts of
being a concept of organized scientific rationality
on the one hand, and of being a social and norma-
tive concept, committed to future generations, on
the other. This turned out to be the challenge of
our project on an SD elective.
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Starting a project which shall intervene in a so-
cial system, means starting a social process that
needs broad acceptance of the people involved
or concerned. Therefore intervention research
pays close attention to the initial phase of such
projects (Heintel, 2005; Hübner, 2012). The most
important steps are related to composing the team
and to enabling the individuals who hardly know
each other to grow together. However, there is little
experience of interventions in the own systems.
Therefore, we had to be even more sensitive about
how to start this process. Personal contacts in
all faculties and on a very open draft of how the
elective could look like with different alternatives
built the initial situation. Interested scientists of
all faculties were identified and invited to develop
the elective.
In the end the teaching team included eight
representatives of the four faculties (Cultural
Sciences, Business Administration & Econom-
ics, Technical Sciences, and Interdisciplinary
Research and Education). The idea was to guar-
antee interdisciplinarity across faculty borders.
This cooperation between the participating de-
partments is a new approach for the Alpen-Adria
University Klagenfurt which is expected to result
in a wider scope and understanding of the facets
of sustainability for both students and research-
ers/teachers. Furthermore, the development of
a learning community as the core element of a
new learning culture among students and among
the core teaching team, can also be seen as an in-
novation: students and researcher/teachers work
out relations and options for actions jointly and
reflect on these actions as well as on the learning
process, thus following Bateson’s concept of first
and second order learning (Bateson, 1972) or ESD
following Vare and Scott (2007).
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In comparison to ‘traditional’ university class-
es, additional competences have to be taught, such
as the competence to critically question our modern
information society, and/or social competences
such as self-esteem, self-determination, individual
initiative, and general participation capability.
Furthermore, the capability of handling different
concepts and contradictions and managing con-
flicts are seen to be important competences when
it comes to Sustainable Development (Rauch,
2008). These concepts are not only part of the
content of the elective, but can also be seen as
learning opportunities for the teaching team at
the University as a whole.
Finally and crucially, the elective takes into ac-
count an aspect which is all too often neglected in
the SD-discourse: the cultural dimension (Heintel,
2007). SD concerns not only educational processes
and processes of research and technological inno-
vations, but also includes cultural reorientation and
changes in consumption and production patterns
(Der Rat von Sachverständigen für Umweltfragen
[SRU], 1994). However, the cultural dimension
needs practical and thematic contextualization
to identify the differences between sustainable
and non-sustainable patterns, for which “mobil-
ity and modern nomadism” had been selected as
overarching subject for 2012/13.
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The working hypothesis is that the idea of Sustain-
able Development benefits from interdisciplinary
education through including the discussion of
different theories, competences and methods. The
implementation of the SD elective is a first trial to
involve all faculties at the University in a single
course. The interfaculty team should have at least
one person from each faculty who is interested in
such a new cooperation. This team should work
on the concept and implementation as well as
be part of the staff of the elective. Co-operation
between faculties is still not usual, but at the
same time it is crucial for the success of such a
heuristic educational approach. Furthermore, it
can be regarded as a new approach in Education
for Sustainable Development (ESD) and thus also
means an intervention in the teaching and studying
culture of the university.
The development of the course is based on the
assumption that – in order to practice and ‘live’
sustainable approaches sustainability requires
a (collective) process of (re)searching and devel-
oping (Rauch & Steiner, 2013). As such it needs
a basic understanding of the social system. The
teaching format aims at fostering the willingness
for fundamental rethinking as well as at enhancing
competence for reflective and sustainable actions.
This interfaculty co-operation between the partici-
pating departments (mathematics, jurisprudence,
economics, geography, sociology, intervention
research and cultural sustainability, as well as
instructional and school development) is seen
as both a challenge and an innovative approach:
it results in a wider scope and understanding of
the facets of sustainability for both students and
teacher (Dawe, Jucker & Martin, 2005), whereby
the teaching team does not understand sustain-
ability only or simply as a rational issue to be
lectured and understood, but rather as an attitude
towards life.
Thus, the course also serves as a model in which
scientists from different disciplines and different
faculties have to converge. Consequently, sustain-
ability is approached from manifold perspectives
(which possibly or even probably results in dif-
ferent outcomes for individual research progress).
This may and hopefully will open up new pathways
for the development of the university, especially
within its learning and research culture. This is
seen as a prerequisite for sustainability in teach-
ing and research. To recap, we understand the
project of developing an interfaculty elective on
sustainable development as an intervention into
the university system. This is taking place on dif-
ferent levels: interdisciplinary teaching, research,
administration, and transdisciplinary cooperation.
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Due to the wide diversity of topics it is impor-
tant to have a clear listing of issues which are
considered as necessary basics for sustainability.
To have sustainable impacts, these fundamental
basics have to be more than factual knowledge of
a specific topic. The basics can be understood as
the theoretical concept or matrix of the elective,
the foundation for any further thematic differen-
tiation drawn on and profiting from the manifold
disciplines represented by the teachers and students
participating. The basic contents of the “Sustain-
able Development” elective are:
What does SD mean? Multiple facets and
history of the term.
SD and time: understanding time processes.
Sustainable systems and growth.
SD as coping with antagonisms
(contradictions).
SD and system-compatible thinking and
acting.
Philosophical and epistemological basics.
SD, self-organization and non-linear
dynamics.
SD in different social conditions.
Communication, reflection and learning
(as an/the overarching theme).
These contents require inter- and trans-dis-
ciplinary approaches and consequently a mix of
teaching methods: lectures, literature review, and
joint investigation of practical examples (inquiry-
based learning). Further teaching designs can be
used (lecture courses, book presentations, project
reflections, faculty research days).
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The notion of intervention can be distilled into
one fundamental effect, namely the introduction
or making accessible of a different point of view
(Grossmann, 2007; Willke, 2005). An interven-
tion is, in this sense, not a direct command to take
action, but a process for the generation of aware-
ness, which arises from the gaining of reflective
distance to exactly those relationships in which
one is a participant (Paul-Horn & Krainz, 2009).
The development of this course is thus based on
the assumption that – in order to practice and
‘live’ sustainable approaches – sustainability
requires a collective process of re-searching and
developing. As such, it depends on the respective
cultural setting for which a basic understanding
of the social system is needed.
Sustainable teaching stimulates orientation
knowledge and systems knowledge (the former
offers orientation in a modern world undergoing an
increasing differentiation), providing inspiration
for innovation and exploration (Schneidewind,
2009). Additionally it fosters discussion in inter-
disciplinary teams and offers fertile ground for
a reflexive, participative and activating method
of teaching.
The teaching format aims at enhancing the
willingness to reconsider according to the meta-
noia principle: systems’ thinking requires the
willingness to change one’s mind fundamentally
(Ossimitz & Lapp, 2006; Senge, 1996), while
simultaneously increasing the competence for
reflection and sustainable actions. Sustainability
thus has to be approached from different angles,
which in turn fosters different outcomes for the
individual and gives impulses to work in specific
disciplines, too. This might open up new path-
ways for the development of the university, and
particularly its learning and research culture. Cor-
responding innovations in the overall university
culture need specific interventions in the system
of teaching and studying within any given disci-
pline. But there are also questions that go beyond
disciplinary knowledge. Here lies the advantage of
the elective SD, it offers a learning environment
where disciplinary, as well as interdisciplinary
questions can be discussed. Therefore, the elec-
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tive is structured according to the principles of
inquiry- based learning (Anderson, 2007) and
problem-based learning (Schneider, 2006; Wilden-
burg, 2006). It is crucial that teaching is guided
by research. The following basic decisions result
from these considerations and build the framework
for the elective:
SD encompasses thinking and acting by
identifying and reflecting contradictions.
Projects gain practical and social relevance
by focusing on one general topic per year,
for which research topics and research
questions are to be defined and studied.
The results are discussed with represen-
tatives of non-academic practice (Topic
for the first year: Mobility and modern
nomadism).
Self-organization of students.
Reflection on everyday theories as well as
disciplinary approaches and paradigms.
Establishment of a learning community
(both students and lecturer(s) are learners).
The content, structure and effects of the
course themselves follow the principle of
resource-oriented thinking and acting.
Students have to fulfill different tasks that
support the mutual learning process. Students at-
tending the elective already hold a Bachelor degree
in a certain academic subject, which builds the
disciplinary basis for further inquiry. Orientation
in a discipline supports learning and understanding
in the inter-disciplinary discourses on sustainable
development in the elective.
By discussing their ideas with the teachers
as well as with partners from working practice
(industr ial and public management, NGOs
etc.) the students define research questions and
methodology, write and discuss text reflections,
organize and conduct small research projects in
groups, followed by public presentations. In ad-
dition, students work on selected topics in small
groups to discuss sustainability from ecological,
economical, geographical, juridical, psychologi-
cal, sociological and educational points of view
with the aim of working out contradictions and
consistent aspects that are important for all students
of the course. The results of these group works
have to be documented and prepared to inform
other students about the essential outcomes and
to support the contribution of further scientific
or didactic discourses on the subject.
In terms of a sustainable use of intellectual
results, future students that attend the elective can
build on the existing work of previous generations
of students. The form of presenting the results will
be chosen regarding perceivability (presenting the
results in a comprehensible form for outsiders),
economy (limit economic effort for the creation of
the end products) and sustainability (practicability
for science and teaching). The goal is to find a
balance between the individual experience-based
learning and the production of durable “products”
that communicate the main results. Evaluations
are made on the basis of feedback-comments
that help students to identify their strengths and
weaknesses and give them the chance to improve
within the course.
The elective was intended to be implemented
in several Master’s and Doctoral programs across
faculties and disciplines. It is seen as crucial that
teaching in that elective should be guided by
research. Therefore the teaching team decided
to construct the elective as a research workshop
(“Forschungswerkstatt”), that being the learning
environment most adequate for the formation of
a learning community. This idea cannot be real-
ized in a single semester, therefore the course was
held over two semesters. This turned out to be an
additional challenge for the university’s culture:
one course has to be within one semester, some-
thing which goes beyond is called “curriculum”
and immediately has a different status. This was
a inhibiting for the accreditation of the course for
the students’ study programs.
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The multiple organization-related challenges were
caused by unforeseen simultaneous processes
within the university as well as by structural and
other cultural circumstances, like the value of team
work, interdisciplinarity or skeptical positions
which consider the sustainability concept to be
not scientific enough.
1. Context of New Curricula – Reduction of
free electives: Currently the University is
going through a process of re-structuring its
curricula and study plans. On the one hand,
this is paving the way for the implementation
of the elective. On the other hand, this process
brings unforeseen changes: The amount of
free electives of all Master’s Programs has
been reduced from 10% to 5% (6 ECTS3).
Due to this the elective (with 12 ECTS) is
now too large for these study programs.
Nevertheless, due to the complexity of SD
the core team decided not to change the
concept in the expectation that there will be
sufficient students interested in attending the
elective.
2. Potential Competition – Pleasant and
Irritating at the Same Time: Overlapping
with our project the Faculty of Management
and Economics planned for the same time a
disciplinary module on “Environment and
Energy” within their curricula, in which co-
operation beyond the faculty was not on the
agenda. For our elective this might have led
to fewer students from economics-oriented
studies and inhibited the interdisciplinary
approach as well. On the other hand, such a
progress in offers of sustainability-relevant
courses is overall to be welcomed and could
enrich the whole process of implementing
SD at the University.
3. Sustainability – A Plastic Word with
Normative Touch Disturbs in a Culture of
Rationality: The concept of sustainability
is viewed and understood in different, often
controversial ways. This is due to the fact
that sustainability has many facets, each of
which cannot easily be claimed to be wrong
or right, as this is a question of perspective.
Whilst such a multi-perspective approach
towards sustainability is a major challenge
for teaching as well as for learning, it offers
huge potential for self-referential studying:
sustainability builds on curiosity and a strong
interest in interdisciplinary exchange both
of which at the same time have to be taught.
However, critics claim that – instead of be-
ing multi-faceted the term sustainability
is merely vague and obscure, and hence
without scientific value.
4. Work in Teams and Across Disciplines -
Not as Highly Valued as Individual Work
in the Current University’s Culture:
Personal commitment, bottom-up initia-
tives and memberships of the Alpen-Adria
University Klagenfurt in university networks
are a necessary, but not a sufficient condition
for the successful implementation of an elec-
tive on sustainable development. Structural
obstacles are evident which cannot be easily
overcome, while strong individual dedication
is not sufficient. At the University Klagenfurt
co-operation between faculties is still not
usual. As stated above, the teaching team
assumes that sustainability requires constant
rethinking and the willingness to question
existing paradigms, concepts, methods and
last but not least scientific ‘beliefs’.
5. The Practice – First Experiences: The
first course started in October 2012 with
almost 30 students from studies across all
faculties. Five interdisciplinary groups could
be formed; most of the students had little
experience with team work in courses and
which turned out as a key burden. Almost
all eight teachers have been present dur-
ing all blocks, many of them experiencing
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team-teaching for the first time which in
some mirrored the students’ situation. More
of two thirds of the students were lost after
the first semester. Challenges are located on
many levels, e.g. on the level of emotions,
theoretical approaches, self-organization and
assignments between the presence phases.
All in all the tasks seemed to overburden a
majority of the students. Those who finished
the course learned a lot as they reported.
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Pedagogical innovations are always unique, de-
pending on the institutions involved, the region,
historical paths and the educational culture in
which it is embedded and last but not least on
the acting personalities. Therefore we prefer to
describe our experiences that the project was an
intervention in our university’s culture during the
three years from the initial idea for the SD elec-
tive up to the finalization of the first course at the
university. In gradually opening up the dominant
university culture with regard to SD we have so
far learnt the following lessons:
The Teaching Team as Multipliers: By
building an interfaculty teaching team we
aimed at initiating a broad process at the
university. Thereby, the elective should
itself become self-referential, i.e. Sustain-
able Development is applied to itself. This,
in turn, might establish a learning process
that goes beyond disciplines. Inter-discipli-
narity is known as key issue in researching
and teaching sustainability. However, one
should be aware that finding an approach
for transcending faculty borders in order to
organize a collective process is an invidious,
wicked problem. It appears to be the norm
that a basic contradiction exists between an
organization and creative individuals. On
the other hand we know from organization
theory that the organization is sensitive to
creative networking (Grossmann, Lobnig &
Scala, 2007). Every educational organiza-
tion, and above all a university, has to find
its own solutions to address this issue. Hi-
erarchies at universities have to be seriously
considered and the support of top-level staff
is crucial. However, awareness can be raised
by effective publicity (media presentations
etc.)
Attractiveness through Experiments in
Teaching: Such an interfaculty concept can
also be attractive for those university teach-
ers who are not primarily oriented towards
sustainability but interested in innovative
teaching and learning methods, and new
settings.
Societal Requirements Placed on Univer-
sities: The process of implementing SD (at
least in part) at the Alpen-Adria University
Klagenfurt started in 2005 when it was men-
tioned in the development plan, thus it has
been running now for more than eight years.
However, the question still remains: How can
SD be brought into existence at the university
as a place of organized rationality? Closely
related to this question is the one of how the
collective process of decision-making takes
place within the university. After all, due to
its systemic characteristics like freedom of
research and teaching, a university cannot be
led and managed like a business enterprise.
This directly contradicts the new policy of
introducing full economic autonomy into the
university system. However, at the same time
society’s requirements and expectations are
growing – that can help to implement SD in
a university.
A Certificate to Overcome the ECTS-
Corset: The teaching team implemented
a “Sustainable Development” certificate
e for those university teach
-
own solutions to address this issue. Hi
-
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which requires 20 ECTs, 12 ECTs coming
from the elective described in this article
and 8 ECTs from a pool of seminars which
deal with sustainability from interested
colleagues across all faculties. With this
certificate sustainability should be more
visible and attractive for students.
Joint Writing of a Scientific Paper: The
joint writing of a paper for the conference
“Leuphana Sustainability Summit 2012” in
Germany has been a very interesting and
valuable process of communication which
has strengthened the teaching team through
its common reflection on the process and its
barriers in the conception phase. During the
discussions of the paper relevant issues have
been identified which had to be resolved for
the implementation of the elective.
Financial and Mental Support: Due to
its long tradition with research-led teaching
and problem-based learning, the IFF had got
the lead for developing sustainability as an
interfaculty core research field. Therefore
the process was financially supported by the
IFF-Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies (one
should not underestimate for instance the
improving effect of financing accommoda-
tion and beverages for meetings in order to
support team-building processes). Further-
more, the personal backing of its deanship
strengthened the work and the project team
and in cases of organizational difficulties
solved the irritations caused by the project
intervening in the university’s culture and
structures.
Self-Evaluation: The internal evaluation of
the pilot course by a colleague interviewing
most of the participating students and the
teaching staff helped a lot in going beyond
a superficial understanding of the course’s
successes and weaknesses. It became a very
useful basis for revising the second course
which will start in the academic year 2013-
14.
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Thus the process of implementing SD has been
running now for more than 8 years. However, the
question still remains: How can SD be brought into
existence at the Alpen-Adria University Klagenfurt
as a place of organized rationality?
In reflecting the first sub-question about teach-
ing methods in the light of some current empirical
literature (Bray, 2008; Ellis & Weekes, 2008) we
decided that the teaching and learning methods
to be chosen within the elective SD have to be
based on the following principles: inquiry-based
learning, problem- and research-based learning,
building of learning communities, SD seen from
different disciplines. Through that the elective
contributes to fulfilling the requirements of ESD
in higher education, while helping students to gain
important theories, competences and methods
to meet the demands of the present time and to
ensure a future that is worth living.
To answer the second initial question - how
can the teaching of sustainable attitudes be
implemented into the university system? - it can
be stated that the implementation process of an
interfaculty SD elective needs strong support by
top-level staff. Understood it as a regulative idea,
the concept of SD contains both arbitrariness
and a normative demand. Due to these features a
permanent reflection process is necessary. This
is why the implementation process of the elective
is being scientifically supported and evaluated.
The development and implementation of the
elective SD at the Alpen-Adria University Kla-
genfurt can be seen as another attempt to use the
innovative potential of the SD-discourse. This
potential concerns not only the conceptual and
theoretical dimension, but also organizational
challenges of development in accordance with
new governance and the advancement of teaching
and research cultures at the university.
The implementation process of this elective,
based on a new type of cooperation among research
and teaching team from all four faculties, turned
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out to be a challenging intervention not simply an
innovation at course level. In order to implement
Sustainable Development as a regulative idea
across the university as a whole, faculty bound-
aries must be transcended on both management
and structural levels. Its acceptance in all master
programs of the university represents a serious
challenge for the coming years.
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We owe considerable thanks to Kirsten von El-
verfeldt for reviewing an earlier draft of the paper.
Günther Ossimitz, Gunhild Sagmeister, Larissa
Krainer and Doris Hattenberger provided valuable
comments that improved this paper significantly.
We would like to dedicate the paper to Günther
who left us too early in 2013.
5()(5(1&(6
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(1'127(6
1 In 2012 the Alpen-Adria University Kla-
genfurt got the Sustainability Award again;
this time for the development of networks
in education all over Austria (Rauch 2013).
2 Obviously, there exists a multitude of implicit
concepts of sustainability. These concepts
were deduced from twelve qualitative inter-
views with researchers from all four facul-
ties and representatives of management and
administration. We regard it as one of the
key strengths of our elective to make these
(and other) implicit concepts explicit and
to include these – partly controversial – un-
derstandings of Sustainable Development in
our teaching (please also refer to the section
‘lessons learned’).
3 European Credit Transfer System is a stan-
dard for comparing the study attainment and
performance of students of higher education
across the European Union and other col-
laborating European countries.
... Additionally, these examples are selected because the authors were involved in both of the initiatives. Evaluations and reports from both initiatives form the data basis for the selection and the presentation (Hübner et al., 2014;Weberhofer et al., 2020). ...
... The first Austrian case at the University of Klagenfurt focused on an interdisciplinary elective "Sustainable Development, " which is intended as an instrument for the implementation of sustainability at the University of Klagenfurt. The development plans of the University of Klagenfurt since 2006 have included sustainability as highly relevant from a social and cultural science perspective (Hübner et al., 2014). ...
... The proposition by Anderberg et al. (2009) of collaborations between universities from the North and South is befitting of the global learning paradigm as it would expose students and staff to the problems besetting societies in other parts of the world and how those problems are being resolved at the local level. The lessons to learn from this inter-and transdisciplinary approach are that students, lecturers, and researchers work out relations and options for joint actions and reflect on these actions (Hübner et al., 2014) which is crucial for the success of Education for Sustainable Development. ...
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The paper is part of the broader narrative of transforming curricula in universities in Zimbabwe and Austria. The landscape in higher education globally is inexorably shifting as a result of major global forces of change. For that reason, higher education cannot remain immune to these global challenges and changes. Rather, universities should be the agents of change. Higher education in Austria and Zimbabwe, in response to these global challenges and imperatives, has begun the process of transforming curricula to educate graduates for the future. The paper explores the strategies that universities in Zimbabwe and Austria have initiated to be able to support students to make meaningful contributions to the global learning and sustainability narrative. The two central questions that this paper seeks to answer are: Which additional innovations in curricula and new epistemologies should universities in Zimbabwe and Austria implement in order to educate graduates for a sustainable future? What can universities in the South and in the North learn from each other? In attempting to reflect on these questions, pertinent lessons will be drawn from initiatives in Austria and Zimbabwe to build capacity to achieve the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) agenda through various strategies.
... A central target of SDG 4 is to develop and enhance abilities necessary for the transformation of individuals, organisations and the society towards SD (see target 4.7). ESD must no longer resort to teaching only but must strive to trigger changes in the institution as well (Hübner et al., 2014). This question of inducing transformative processes can be understood as a connection to the theoretical landscape of discourse on transformative learning. ...
... This crossover from different disciplines with both students and lecturers/scholars creates an informal network for sustainability in the university and the region at the same time. (Hübner et al., 2014). Besides having a multidisciplinary teaching team, the course module's interdisciplinary aspect is implemented by requesting students from different disciplines to analyze, synthesize, and harmonize inputs from their disciplines into a coherent result. ...
... Due to the wide diversity of topics, it is important to have a clear set of issues that are considered necessary basics for teaching and understanding sustainable development. The basic contents of the elective "Sustainable Development" involve inter alia facets and history of SD, sustainable systems and growth, coping with contradictions, social conditions, communication, learning and education (Hübner et al., 2014) (Table 1). ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper describes the case of a university course addressing Sustainable Development (SD). This interdisciplinary and interfaculty elective course is meant to serve the purpose of teaching sustainability. At the same time, it is also intended to serve as an instrument for the implementation of sustainability at the University of Klagenfurt in Austria. The paper describes the conception and implementation of an interdisciplinary elective as a first appropriate step to implement SD at the University of Klagenfurt across disciplinary and structural barriers. Furthermore, the paper presents reflections of the course based on a series of interviews with the leading teaching team as well as the team's ongoing reflections. As it turns out: The major challenge is that a system based on individual freedom in research and teaching needs to intervene within its own system to create and initiate a new development.
... A central target of SDG 4 is to develop and enhance abilities necessary for the transformation of individuals, organisations and the society towards SD (see target 4.7). ESD must no longer resort to teaching only but must strive to trigger changes in the institution as well (Hübner et al., 2014). This question of inducing transformative processes can be understood as a connection to the theoretical landscape of discourse on transformative learning. ...
... This crossover from different disciplines with both students and lecturers/scholars creates an informal network for sustainability in the university and the region at the same time. (Hübner et al., 2014). Besides having a multidisciplinary teaching team, the course module's interdisciplinary aspect is implemented by requesting students from different disciplines to analyze, synthesize, and harmonize inputs from their disciplines into a coherent result. ...
... Due to the wide diversity of topics, it is important to have a clear set of issues that are considered necessary basics for teaching and understanding sustainable development. The basic contents of the elective "Sustainable Development" involve inter alia facets and history of SD, sustainable systems and growth, coping with contradictions, social conditions, communication, learning and education (Hübner et al., 2014) (Table 1). ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper describes the case of a university course addressing Sustainable Development (SD). This interdisciplinary and interfaculty elective course is meant to serve the purpose of teaching sustainability. At the same time, it is also intended to serve as an instrument for the implementation of sustainability at the University of Klagenfurt in Austria. The paper describes the conception and implementation of an interdisciplinary elective as a first appropriate step to implement SD at the University of Klagenfurt across disciplinary and structural barriers. Furthermore, the paper presents reflections of the course based on a series of interviews with the leading teaching team as well as the team's ongoing reflections. As it turns out: The major challenge is that a system based on individual freedom in research and teaching needs to intervene within its own system to create and initiate a new development.
... This entails a process of social understanding that deals with the causes and with possible solutions. The task of sustainability communication is to critically evaluate and introduce an understanding of the human-environment relationship into social discourse (Godemann & Michelsen, 2011), which includes reflection upon dilemmas and contradiction (Hübner, 2012;Hübner, Rauch & Dulle, 2014). Furthermore, the development of a learning community as the core element of a new learning culture can also be seen as an innovation: students and r/teachers work out relations and options for joint actions, and reflect on these actions as well as on the learning process, thus following Bateson's concept of first and second order learning (Bateson, 1972;Vare & Scott, 2007). ...
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Um die Sustainable Development Goals umzusetzen, ist es erforderlich, Nachhaltigkeit in alle Bildungsebenen und -formen zu integrieren. Dies gilt nicht zuletzt für die Weiterbildung der Hochschullehrenden. Die Verfasstheit des Nachhaltigkeitskonzepts ‐ sein normativer und transformatorischer Anspruch ohne die gesellschaftliche Entwicklung durch zu enge Vorgaben zu begrenzen ‐ stellt Bildungsprozesse vor besondere Herausforderungen, vor allem wenn man der Komplexität und Dynamik mittels inter- und transdisziplinärer Perspektiven gerecht werden möchte. In einer nach wie vor disziplinär strukturierten Hochschullandschaft keine Kleinigkeit. In Österreich gibt es dafür einen vielfältig strukturierten inner- und interuniversitären Austausch.
Chapter
Derzeit erleben wir gesellschaftliche Umbrüche in einem großen Ausmaß und von sehr hoher Komplexität. Damit diese Veränderungen in eine aus Nachhaltigkeitsperspektive wünschenswerte Richtung gehen, braucht es Prozesse, aus denen innovative Ideen und Lösungen, die auch breit unterstützt sind, hervorgehen. Eine „neue“ Richtung kann nicht von Experten und Expertinnen vorgegeben werden, auch nicht von einzelnen Politikern und Politikerinnen. Transformation bedarf kollektiver und co-kreativer Lern- und Entwicklungsprozesse unter breiter Beteiligung von Menschen aus möglichst vielen Teilsystemen der Gesellschaft. Für diese braucht es Räume, die Austausch, gemeinsames Nachdenken, Wahrnehmen und Reflektieren verschiedener Positionen ermöglichen. Es ist nicht trivial, solche Räume zu schaffen. „Art of Hosting and Harvesting Conversations that Matter“ ist die Kunst, Kommunikations-Räume einer besonderen Qualität zu schaffen, in denen (große) Gruppen von Menschen in intensiven Diskurs zu wesentliche Fragen treten können und wollen. Dem Art of Hosting liegt ein systemisches Prozessverständnis zugrunde, das davon ausgeht, dass erstens Innovation im Grenzbereich zwischen Ordnung und Chaos entsteht und zweitens Veränderungen bzw. Lösungen umfassender, robuster und am Ende breiter unterstützt sind, wenn sie von den Betroffenen gemeinsam entwickelt werden. Art of Hosting bietet aus unserer Sicht profundes Prozess- und Methodenwissen zur Gestaltung von transformativen Prozessen, in denen sich Selbstorganisation und Kreativität dafür bereiter Akteure und Akteurinnen bestmöglich entfalten können. In unserem Beitrag stellen wir zunächst die Grundlagen und Elemente von Art of Hosting dar. Anschließend veranschaulichen wir am Beispiel des dem vorliegenden Buch zugrunde liegenden Symposiums die konkrete Anwendung von Art of Hosting.
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The chapter describes and analyses the development of major projects in Austria in the context of Environmental Education/ESD since the 1980s. The ENSI (Environment and School Initiative) Programme played a strong part in these developments within the school system, especially the Austrian Network ECOLOG (Eco–/ESD Schools programme) and the Education Support Fund for Health Education and ESD. Additional Programmes in Teacher Education (i.e. University Courses in Teacher Training) and a biannual Sustainability Award for Universities have been developed as spin–offs. The Austrian strategy for ESD as part of the UN Decade will also be reported upon. The analysis and appraisal is based upon theoretical concepts as well as empirical evaluation and research data.
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Competences are intensively discussed in the context of cross-curricular themes, such as Sustainable Development and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), especially in light of the United Nations Decade for ESD (2004-2015). Recent literature on ESD lists a number of competences for ESD in various fields with the exception of teacher education. A competence model for ESD for educators was generated in the Austrian research project KOM-BiNE (Competences for ESD in Teacher Education) as part of a large-scale EU project. The KOM-BiNE competence model consists of areas of competences within fields of action. The constituent elements of the competence model are described in detail and are illustrated with examples.
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This case study presents the development of networks in education, using the Austrian IMST (Innovations Make Schools Top) project as illustration. The regional networks are coordinated in every Austrian federal province by groups made up of teachers, representatives of the educational authorities, and members of academia. In the framework of the IMST project, all networks are monitored by a team of the Institute of Instructional and School Development at the University of Klagenfurt. This article presents theoretical concepts, network structures and network activities, as well as evaluation data. The overall challenge in trying to enable sustainable development of learning of those involved might be described as keeping momentum between network structures and network processes or, in other words, between stability and flow.
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Whether we view sustainable development as our greatest challenge or a subversive litany, every phase of education is now being urged to declare its support for education for sustainable development (ESD). In this paper, we explore the ideas behind ESD and, building on work by Foster and by Scott and Gough, we argue that it is necessary now to think of two complementary approaches: ESD 1 and ESD 2. We see ESD 1 as the promotion of informed, skilled behaviours and ways of thinking, useful in the short-term where the need is clearly identified and agreed, and ESD 2 as building capacity to think critically about what experts say and to test ideas, exploring the dilemmas and contradictions inherent in sustainable living. We note the prevalence of ESD 1 approaches, especially from policy makers; this is a concern because people rarely change their behaviour in response to a rational call to do so, and more importantly, too much successful ESD 1 in isolation would reduce our capacity to manage change ourselves and therefore make us less sustainable. We argue that ESD 2 is a necessary complement to ESD 1, making it meaningful in a learning sense. In this way we avoid an either-or debate in favour of a yes-and approach that constantly challenges us to understand what we are communicating, how we are going about it and, crucially, why we are doing it in the first place.
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