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Climate change in higher education: a curriculum topography approach

McCowan, Tristan; (2021) Climate change in higher education: a curriculum topography approach. (Transforming Universities for a Changing Climate: Working Paper Series 6). Climate-U: London, UK. Green open access

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Abstract

Learning about climate change is widely recognised as an important outcome for higher education students. However, there is uncertainty as to the best way to incorporate issues of climate into the curriculum, whether as a stand-alone module, through infusion across courses, through interdisciplinary provision, or informal activities. Furthermore, there is resistance in some quarters to introduction of this content, on account of the contested values involved, the overcrowding of the syllabus, and lack of specialist experience. This paper addresses the arguments for including climate change in the higher education curriculum, assessing the different forms of learning needed by citizens and professionals, the role of the university as institution, and the different potential forms of integration. The paper puts forward a proposal for a topography approach, one that sees the role of the university not as teaching climate change, but as curating a diverse environment of learning experiences. The proposed framework sees learning as being distributed across three spaces (classroom, campus and community) and characterised by features of access (availability, voluntariness and continuity), ownership (agency, malleability and certification) and connection (embeddedness, application, disciplinarity, transmodality, collaboration and experientiality). While universities will display diverse topographies depending on their contextual characteristics, there are important normative considerations which must be taken into account, namely: building on students’ existing knowledge, criticality, non-coercion and epistemic pluralism.

Type: Working / discussion paper
Title: Climate change in higher education: a curriculum topography approach
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://www.climate-uni.com/resources
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the version of record. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Education, Practice and Society
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10142639
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