Intercultural knowledge for promoting sustainability
Faculty of Science, Monash University
Susie Ho is the course director for the Master of Environment and Sustainability in the Faculty of Science. Like many other staff across different faculties, Susie is employing global case studies in the curriculum of her program. She interprets internationalisation as a modernisation of the curriculum, with the purpose of giving students the intercultural knowledge needed to find jobs and create positive and inclusive impact in our globalised world.
Her course is interdisciplinary, and focuses on issues in global sustainability. Students tackle big global questions like climate change, inequality and the UN development goals. Finding solutions to these issues requires complex collaboration and partnerships with people from other cultures, as well as sectors and disciplines. Students are encouraged to draw on and share their own personal experiences and perspectives. For instance, when analysing the issue of water security, she will utilise the experience of her students, who come from over 50 different countries and have experience varying from research to industry, to evaluate both domestic case studies as well as those from across the world e.g. Europe, Colombia, Russia and China. Students also participate in global simulations, such as a model UN, in which they represent both developed and developing countries as well as NGOs, First Nations Peoples and scientists. Through considering multiple perspectives, students are able to practice working in international teams and learn more about other cultures and ways of knowing.
When it comes to assessment design, students usually work in intercultural, cross-sector and interdisciplinary groups, and are required to demonstrate this diversity of perspectives in their assessment. They are allowed to choose assessments and case studies based around the areas of the world or the intergovernmental processes they are interested in or wish to return to work in. For example, a student might choose to focus their assessment around building a national sustainability plan in Indonesia, if that was where they were currently working or were planning to work in the future. Susie mentions that staff need to be aware that, particularly in assessed environments, students will each have personal, individual learning trajectories and communication styles due to their unique cultural, professional and disciplinary backgrounds. In her teaching experience, she focuses on creating boundary-spanning partnerships for the goals (SDG 17) among students and facilitating positive and inclusive learning environments where students feel comfortable taking the lead. Diversity and multiple perspectives are important in the global to local work of sustainability, and discussions should empower students to feel comfortable engaging in an intercultural and interdisciplinary environment. This helps students come to an understanding of why differences occur and how to work in more effective and inclusive ways. Susie’s use of these strategies in her classroom ultimately allows for students to see global issues through the lenses of other cultural contexts. In doing so, she hopes to prepare them for a globalised world in which they can both find jobs and create meaningful impact to advance sustainability.