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The Sobey School of Business (SSB) is a large and comprehensive business school in Halifax, Canada. The School’s mission is to prepare citizens of the world to lead sustainable and entrepreneurial businesses and communities so PRME is particularly relevant to the School’s purpose and ambition. The SSB has been a signatory to PRME since 2014 and a Champion for PRME since 2020. The School's PRME Commitment is managed by a Steering Committee led by the Associate Dean of Undergraduate and Graduate Professional Programs. The Dean is a member and the Steering Committee is otherwise comprised of disciplinary representatives from the School. In 2022 the School received a gift, the Linton Family Sustainability in Business Trust which provides significant funding to embed the SDGs into program curriculum and enhance the student experience as it pertains to exposure of environment and social issues.
Mapping of SDGs in the curriculum (the method used for doing it)
In 2020, the Sobey School of Business (SSB) became a PRME Champion and signed on to a curriculum mapping project led by the Copenhagen Business School (CBS) and involving 6 other business schools (Glasgow, Nottingham, Cape Town, Stellenbosch, George Mason, and the Gordon School at Pretoria).
The overall objective of the curriculum mapping project was to identify curricular elements that align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to highlight gaps that may exist. The methodology builds upon the work of Brugman, Cote, Postma, Shaw, Pal & Robinson at the University of Toronto who cite an SDG inventory as key to their efforts to transform curriculum.
The first and arguably most important step in the curriculum mapping process was to define the set of key words that would be used to code the curriculum documents. Brugman et al. developed and published their coding structure and we used that as a reference. The key words used in the project included those on the Brugmann et al. list and others agreed upon by the participating schools. As a group, the Champions set the constraint that any additional proposed word must appear in the Global indicator framework for the Sustainable Development Goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Participants were encouraged to include any additional keywords that were critically contextually relevant. The SSB added ‘indigenous’ to SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities even though it only appears in the Global Indicator Framework SDG 2 Zero Hunger (in the context of food production).
A research assistant (RA) was recruited, hired and trained to conduct the mapping exercise for our large Bachelor of Commerce (BCOM) Program. The RA built single-course documents that contained the course title, calendar course description and full syllabus. The documents were labelled with program level, name, number, subject and course code, term and section number. The RA built the code manager in the Atlas.TI software (though many participants in the CBS-led project used NVivo). The Codes included the SDG goal number, goal name and the key words associated with each. The mapping process required finding and highlighting the key words in each document and then selecting a sufficiently-sized quotation for the purposes of deriving meaning. Once the keywords were found and the quotation selected, the mappings were analyzed for meaning in the context of the SDG Global Indicator Framework.
The Research Assistant completed the mapping and meaning analysis and prepared a number of graphs to depict the amount and type of SDG integration in the BCOM curriculum. These graphs were reviewed by the BCOM Program Council and the PRME Steering Committee. Three recommendations were made and have been actioned by one or both governance bodies. The first was that the BCOM program leadership and individual faculty need to reflect on the integration of environmental sustainability-specific knowledge and skill into the undergraduate curriculum. There appear to be very few instances of meaningful inclusion of content related to SDG 13: Climate Action, SDG 7: Clean & Affordable Energy, SDG 14: Life Below Water or SDG 15: Life on Land. This finding was the impetus for the PRME committee’s adoption of the theme to Centre Sustainability at the Sobey School of Business for the 2022-2024 action plan. The process also revealed that the BCOM’s quantitative courses – in accounting, finance and management science – contained the fewest references to the SDG key words. This finding has helped the PRME Committee prioritize professional development opportunities for faculty and to foster connections with practice communities in these disciplines since we know that the finance and accounting professionals are facing increased demand from stakeholders for more effective measurement and reporting related to ESG. Lastly, program leadership, department chairs and individual faculty will be encouraged to be more explicit about the integration of the SDGs into their formal course documents (i.e., syllabi and calendar descriptions) to aid current and prospective students, as well as other key stakeholders, to connect the core content of the course with the Program-level Learning Goals associated with PRME.
The first reaction of reviewing faculty forced us to recognize that the course artifacts “mined” for key words in this project are very limited in the extent to which they fully describe the student learning in the classroom. We used course syllabi and calendar descriptions as they were easily accessible and provided some measure of consistency in terms of data used for the overall Champions’ project. The PRME Committee recognizes that these results report merely the minimum amount of SDG coverage in the BCOM program and that there is the potential of greater integration than indicated by the results. However, the course syllabi and calendar course descriptions are essential documents and provide critically important information to current and prospective students, as well as other important stakeholders, about our undergraduate program and its coverage of these important topics. Given this concern, especially of teaching faculty, a key recommendation was to encourage the clearer articulation of SDG-related learning in the course descriptions and syllabi. This effort is now underway. A second mapping exercise will take place in late 2024 in order to re-assess SDG Integration in the Bachelor of Commerce program at the Sobey School of Business. Therefore, treating the initial mapping as a benchmarking exercise and acknowledging the limitations of the methodology might support the fuller adoption of any recommendations arising from the project.
The Brugman et all article was critical in establishing this methodology. The Global indicators framework was also an important reference document. CBS provided valuable facilitation and leadership. The Champions sub-group believed the methodology to be software agnostic but either of the NVivo or Atlas.TI statistical software packages are required. The SSB hired a graduate Research Assistant to conduct the actual mapping. The RA spent approximately 40 hours on the mapping itself and another 20 hours conducting the analysis. The RA also facilitated the review of the report with both the PRME Steering Committee and the BCOM Program Council.
New sustainability-focused courses have been created and added to the BCOM program and further integration into the core courses is underway. The Marketing Department was the first of the SSB’s five departments to submit revised course descriptions in the Fall of 2023. The new course descriptions contain references to ethical and sustainability issues and responsibilities. The SSB will conduct a follow-up mapping exercise in the Fall of 2024 to assess the success of the implemented recommendations outlined above.
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