Identify & Audit Hub

This is a new hub that may change its name as people start to shape it.

Below is some information on a significant project relating to this hub:

Ideas on Identifying and Auditing for EfS in Tertiary Courses                          – Colin Hocking

Some preliminary thoughts:

I am not sure that Identifying & Auditing (Stocktaking) are the best terms to use, although I think something around this idea is needed.

Two things that are already happening in networking re Identifying & Auditing EfS:

Individual institutions in Australia are now developing EfS across a range of courses and programs, and a few are starting to think about or act on the notion of: A) what could/should constitute EfS in tertiary courses; and B) how we might go about recognising what EfS is already in courses.

The Academic Standards for Learning & Teaching Sustainability project (LTAS – see detail further down this page) currently underway is one network already forming/established which could form the basis for looking at:

  • What we want EfS to look like in Tertiary
  • How we might adapt a general agreed set of standards to individual circumstances
  • How we might go about identifying EfS in courses / subjects – including where we should look

At La Trobe we have an overall University definition of Sustainability Thinking, with the expectation that this will be embedded in sufficient subjects so that every student doing their undergraduate degree will do at least one of these Sustainability Thinking subjects. For the subject to be deemed to have embedded Sustainability Thinking it needs to demonstrate that the Intended Learning Outcomes, Student Activities and Student Assessment all explicitly show how the definition of Sustainability Thinking is incorporated, for a significant part of the subject (somewhere between one quarter and one third).

Overseas the issues of Quality Assurance and Quality Enhancement for Sustainability Education /ESD are already being reported on in the literature – Australia could and should be contributing to this discussion.

Where to next:

The Pilot Interest Hub could look at these dual questions and come up with some shared ideas:

  •  What do we mean by EfS in Tertiary Courses. How should this be adapted to different institutions, disciplines and courses?
  • How do we go about stocktaking EfS in Tertiary Courses?

Identify & Audit Hub On-line Meeting 1 on 17th December 2015

Preliminary discussions identified the following ideas as starting points:

  1. What is currently happening to clearly define, identify and report on/audit/stocktake courses and subjects for sustainability education in tertiary?
  2. What criteria should we be using and how should we be going about defining / clarifying these?
  • How flexible should we be in our definitions?
  • How much leeway should we be thinking of in recognizing sustn ed?
  • What are the key parameters of sustn ed? – are they similar to the National and international definitions: NAP for EfS

3. Do we know of good examples where EfS has been well defined, recognized and audited in tertiary institutions?

4. What do we think this hub should do or focus on next?

Here is SUMMARY of the Identifying and Auditing Hub Meeting 1                             – Below this summary is a video recording of the discussion at the Hub meeting


  • Colin Hocking – La Trobe University
  • Sara Rickards – Macquarie University
  • Bonnie McBain – Newcastle University

 SUMMARY: Initial discussion was around ways in which sustainability education has already been identified in Australian Universities in a number of surveys and studies. Most of these have been done by looking at the on-line subject/course descriptions, including content covered in some instances. The issue that arose in discussion in relation to these was that few if any studies looked at the assessment component of these subjects/courses, so it was difficult to get a clear picture of the extent to which sustainability concepts, issues and values development were being learnt by students, or whether the content reflected more the non-assessed context through which learning was taking place. The importance of having a definition or statement of what is meant by sustainability education in any particular learning context, as only then can a measure be made of the extent to which learning was taking place, measured against these definitions. The LTAS (Learning & Teaching Academic Standards for Environment & Sustainability in Universities) for Environment and Sustainability project lead and coordinated through Newcastle University (see may provide a comprehensive and shared definition or outline of what we mean by Sustainability Education, which in turn might be used to look at the extent of teaching and learning of these elements in subjects and courses. The way in which La Trobe University defines sustainability (termed Sustainability Thinking) was outlined, and how this definition is used to look at the extent to which ST is being embedded in subjects, in their Intended Learning Outcomes, Student Learning Activities and Subject Assessment Tasks see the La Trobe Essentials Blog Site – go to Sustainability Thinking – Examples .

The potential of some type of wider survey across institutions for Sustainability Education was mooted, but it was recognized that more work needs to be done to tie down what we would be looking for, and also how to make it robust (e.g. to capture assessment tasks and student learning outcomes). Some of this work is currently going on with selected courses also at Macquarie Uni. There was also the potential of using the LTAS project TLOs (Teaching & Learning Outcomes) as a starting point for Universities or faculties/units who want to introduce sustainability education broadly to hone their own definition of what this means (one question would be: What is the minimum to include?). Also the LTAS TLOs could be used as a way to design evaluation of student learning outcomes across courses to look at the extent to which these are being met, after deliberate introduction of sustainability ed initiatives.

There were a number of strands of conversation that can be taken up in the next round of consideration by the Hub: How should we collectively define EfS; What part can the TLOs play (- intended more for Environment & Sustainability courses, but could they have wider use?); how can we best tackle the issues of auditing for student learning and/or assessment tasks (often these are not evident on websites); and how do we head towards a meaningful audit of EfS in a wider survey, beyond individual institutions?

VIDEO RECORDING of Identifying & Auditing Hub Meeting 1: 17/12/14

The Environment and Sustainability Learning and Teaching Academic Standards Project

By Bonnie McBain and Liam Phelan, for the Linking & Leveraging for EfS in Tertiary Education Symposium, 2.30-6.30pm, Wed 15 October, 2014


The Environment and Sustainability Learning and Teaching Academic Standards Project aims to develop Threshold Learning Outcomes (or ‘TLOs’) for the environment and sustainability field – documenting what students need to know and be able to do to upon graduation.

The TLOs will apply nationally and at program level. That is, to all degrees offered at Australian universities in the more-than-disciplinary field of Environment and Sustainability. In some cases, degrees will align solely with the TLOs for Environment and Sustainability. An example might be a ‘Bachelor of Sustainability’. In other cases, these TLOs will co-apply with other disciplinary TLOs. An example might be a ‘Bachelor of Environmental Science’, which would align with both the Environment and Sustainability TLOs and the Science TLOs.

Beyond the auditing function the TLOs will serve at program level, the TLOs will also be useful as a curriculum development resource for programs and units that are substantially outside the Environment and Sustainability field, but which have sustainability elements to them. Examples could be a unit on ‘Environmental Law’ in a Bachelor of Laws, or a unit on ‘Environmental Philosophy’ in a Bachelor of Arts, or a unit on ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ in a Bachelor of Business. The TLOs will also be a useful resource in efforts at ensuring sustainability concerns are part of tertiary study curricula across the board.

The Project Team

The Project Team is led by Bonnie McBain and Liam Phelan at the University of Newcastle and includes Paul Brown and Ros Taplin from UNSW, Val Brown from ANU, Iain Hay from Flinders and Richard Horsfield from Macquarie. Daniella Tilbury at the University of Gloucestershire is the Project’s External Evaluator. The Project is commissioned by the Australian Council of Environmental Deans and Directors, and is funded by the Office for Learning and Teaching.

Where the Project is up to…

The project team has recently concluded the consultation phase of the project, and engaged with a wide range of stakeholders including students, professional associations, employers and civil society organisations to help develop the TLOs. More than 2,000 comments were received through a series of face-to-face workshops nationally, a national online discussion forum, and an online questionnaire that elicited responses from stakeholders nationally and internationally.

The TLOs are currently being redrafted on the basis of comments received through the Project’s consultation phase. The next phase of the project is piloting the redrafted TLOs, and that will begin later this month at a number of universities nationally. The TLOs will be ready for use from early 2015.

More information

Project information, including the current draft of the TLOs, is available at the project website, at

Please do be in touch to learn more.


Bonnie McBain and Liam Phelan

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