Connecting Local and Global: Bringing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into Our Teaching

Have you ever wondered how you might expand course connections to real-world challenges that engage and energize your students? Join a new Faculty Learning Community for support and resources that will enable you to do just that by bringing the SDGs into your classroom.

The UN SDGs are a set of 17 broad and interconnected goals that address the global challenges humanity faces. They are comprehensive and visionary, including ending poverty and hunger, reducing inequality, and strengthening the health of human communities and ecosystems globally. Incorporating the SDGs into our teaching can help students make connections between their disciplinary knowledge and skills and the world’s most pressing challenges. These “real world” connections also often make course content more relevant to students, enhancing motivation.

Georgia Tech and other higher education organizations have demonstrated their commitment to working together to advance the SDGs through initiatives that include RCE Greater Atlanta and the the University Global Compact (UGC). RCE Greater Atlanta was acknowledged by the United Nations University in 2017 as a Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development. This network brings together universities and colleges from across the Greater Atlanta region with nonprofit, community, government, and business partners to advance the SDGs. The UGC is a platform for collaboration and collective action to mobilize university initiatives around the world in support of the SDGs. Georgia Tech’s Strategic Plan 2020-2030 also demonstrates the institute's commitment by specifically referencing the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework for advancing multidisciplinary research and teaching that equip students to apply their knowledge and skills to advance sustainable development.

To support faculty in SDG course integration, in February 2021 Georgia Tech’s Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain and Center for Teaching and Learning joined with colleagues at Georgia State University and Kennesaw State University through the RCE Greater Atlanta to facilitate “Going Global: A Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Curriculum Design Workshop.” The workshop provided resources and mentored participants through a modified course design process to begin integrating the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into their teaching units, courses, and even across departments for some participants.

One of the outcomes of the February 2021 workshop was strong interest by many participants in continuing the conversation and identifying additional resources and support for SDG course integration. This cross-institutional FLC was developed in response to that interest.

In this FLC, participating faculty will work collaboratively to explore questions such as:

  • How can teaching with the SDGs enhance student motivation and learning?
  • What can we learn from research and sustainability education literature about how to effectively integrate the SDGs with “traditional” course concepts and skills? 
  • How do we get started? What are the advantages of stand-alone units of instruction versus widespread integration of the SDGs through a course?
  • What resources and models are available to guide us in this work? 

Once the FLC is formed, the group will work together to determine the specific questions they want to explore and decide how to structure their time together to best advance group members’ goals.

What is an FLC?

Faculty learning communities (FLCs) are small groups of instructors who meet regularly to explore a topic of interest, set goals, and meet those goals. FLCs provide an opportunity to engage in deep and sustained conversations about the chosen topic, often resulting in some sort of final product, such as a redesigned course, departmental plan, new publication, or conference presentation. 

Who should participate?

This FLC is appropriate for any teaching faculty at an Atlanta-area college or university participating in the RCE Greater Atlanta. This FLC will be hybrid, beginning with an in-person gathering and then convening virtually to facilitate multi-institutional participation. Participants commit to bi-weekly, one-hour meetings for the duration of Fall semester 2021. The group also will engage in some research, reading, and design work outside of meetings and will shape the extent and nature of that work together. When the group registration list is final we will select a day and time for our meetings.

What should I do if I would like to participate?

To join this FLC please complete this registration form.

Rebecca Watts Hull (Serve-Learn-Sustain) and Carol Subino Sullivan (Center for Teaching and Learning) at Georgia Tech will co-facilitate the FLC with support from Mandy McGrew (Kennesaw State University’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning).