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09 June 2023

United Kingdom

Nottingham Trent University

Nottingham Trent University

Introduction and Institutional Background

Nottingham Business School (NBS) is committed to enabling a culture of Ethics, Responsibility and Sustainability (ERS) across the school, and our ERS work on education, research and partnerships has influenced and led the University strategy and practice. Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and NBS has a strategy 2020-25, ‘University reimagined’, incorporating ‘Embracing Sustainability’ as a key strategic theme. NBS has adopted the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a key framework as part of the formal curriculum for all its programmes. The advantages of using SDGs as a framework for sustainability, rather than just focusing on the concept itself, has proven to be an effective approach to curriculum development. NBS remains committed to PRME principles and SDG integration to ensure that our students are exposed to and can engage with the ideas of sustainable and responsible management. One of the School’s seven learning goals states students should be able to “critically evaluate ethical and sustainability-based issues within their field of study”. Our ambition to prepare forward-thinking and responsible graduates is delivered through both the formal curricula and the provision of co-curricular opportunities such as volunteering and public engagement as part of Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Governance structure and resources are in place to extend our work in relation to sustainability and SDGs and engage faculty widely. NBS has a Sustainability Coordinator and Academic Lead for PRME, and all five departments have Sustainability/PRME Representatives to support the integration of SDGs and sustainability into the curriculum. NBS has invested significantly in this area.

One of the SDG integration Challenges

An example of using an assessment instrument to promote learning about one or more SDGs

The Action

For the BA (Hons) Business Management (Accelerated) course, students have to secure a placement for their second year and, as such, are competing with second year students to secure these opportunities. The modules in the course therefore have not only to give the students an academic grounding in business management, but also to develop employability skills and provide experiences that will enable them to compete effectively in the challenging placement marketplace. Business Management in Practice is one of these modules, that aims to develop an understanding of the elements of a business and how they interact. It also aims to prepare students to work effectively in organisations.

To address both of these aims, one of the assessments for this module was a group task to develop an idea for a new business and then present their ideas as part of a competitive event that was called “Battle of the BABMs”. For the event, the groups of students had to produce a 10-minute presentation of their business idea to the other groups, and they also had to prepare and man a stand to present their ideas to other visitors. Four winning groups were selected, and these groups had to nominate an individual to do a 2-minute short pitch to convince colleagues and visitors that their idea was the most viable and appealing. The winners were presented with a prize.

Sustainability has been one of the core themes through the course with student being introduced to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the concepts of corporate social responsibility (CSR) for their first University assessment. It seemed natural therefore to continue the sustainability theme for this module by giving the students a broad area that their new business idea must satisfy – “Sustainability as a Business”.

This meant that, although sustainability did not form a significant part of the teaching content for the module, it did form a key part of their experiential learning. The students had to embrace, understand, and investigate the area in depth as it needed to be a key driver for their business concepts (See attached assessment brief for details of the assessment).

The Outcome and Impact

The assessment challenge was very well received by students, and they enjoyed working on it through the term. They demonstrably learned more about sustainability, the breadth of the topic and the relevance for all businesses. They also gained a better understanding of all the facets required for a business to operate effectively and all improved their communication skills.

The event was very well received by visiting staff colleagues who gave positive feedback on the ideas generated and the quality of the students’ work. The module received positive verbal feedback as did the event with some comments from students reflecting their increased confidence in their communication skills as well as their increased subject knowledge. They also commented about being able to use the whole experiences of the module in interviews as the source of experiential examples.

Lesson Learned: issues / challenges when introducing the innovation, and how to resolve them

We were very pleased with the work towards the Battle of the BABMs event and the event itself and propose to continue with the format for the next academic year.

To help the students develop appropriate sustainable business ideas, we did arrange a review/ feedback sessions for each group after three/four weeks of development. Each group had a “private” session with a tutor where they discussed their business ideas and were challenged on areas of potential viability/ feasibility etc. and were given pointers for how to build on their thinking. These sessions were seen as very useful and did allow a greater level of realism to be injected into the ideas.

Resources in Need to Adopt or Adapt this Approach

Staff time and expertise was a key resource in this project. No additional teaching time was needed as the challenge was a summative assessment as part of the module.

Presentation rooms and event space were booked for the day of the challenge. The students were also provided with lunch with a networking opportunity.

Visitors were invited to look around the stands and hear the pitches on how business can help address sustainability issues. They had to contribute their time. Communicating with the new people about their ideas was a key part of the event so something that should be organized with plenty of notice.

Tea, coffee, and cake were provided for visitors. Prizes were also provided for the winning team and runners up for encouragement.

Next Steps

Due to the success of the challenge, it will be repeated for the 2022/23 cohort of students.

Supporting Materials

Assessment Brief


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