Education for sustainability: rethinking digital teaching and learning strategy

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Monro, Morag
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University College Cork
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In this paper I argue that National strategy relating to digital learning and teaching in Higher Education (HE) both foregrounds technology as a means to advance a neoliberal policy agenda, and neglects HE’s pivotal role in equipping graduates to deal with global sustainability challenges. I argue for an alternative framing of digital teaching and learning in policy discourse that, rather than being underpinned by neoliberal ideology, aims to prepare graduates to contribute to a more sustainable global society. Neoliberalism, a worldview that puts faith in the supremacy of the free market at the heart of all human activities, has become the prevailing ideology determining the purpose and operation of HE systems worldwide. HE tends to be presented in policy and strategy discourse as being primarily concerned with enhancing economic growth and global competitiveness, and with advancing the wealth and social mobility of the individual. Given the increasing influence of neoliberalism on HE, it is perhaps unsurprising that we see evidence of neoliberalism’s influence in digital teaching and learning strategy. In order to demonstrate this in detail, I will draw on some of the findings of a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) of 13 UK digital teaching and learning strategies. Across the strategies the need to grow the economy and to upskill citizens accordingly is presented as one of the main drivers for implementing digital learning and teaching in HE. As well as primarily framing digital learning and teaching as a means to advance the neoliberal agenda, the strategies also fail to reference the role that digital technologies might play in supporting pedagogical strategies aimed at developing the attributes that students will need to address sustainability challenges. I will conclude by referring to some examples of good practice in the use of digital technologies to support sustainability education, and by making some recommendations for future policy and strategy directions.
Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) , Digital learning and teaching , Engineering education , Sustainability
Monro, M. (2021) ‘Education for sustainability: rethinking digital teaching and learning strategy’, EESD2021: Proceedings of the 10th Engineering Education for Sustainable Development Conference, 'Building Flourishing Communities', University College Cork, Ireland, 14-16 June.