Listening to learn a dialogic route to greater SDG awareness

Christa Appleton, Education Project Officer for the Listening Project at Keele University tells us about how she is using the SDGs to bring students together.

The SDGs have significance for the HEFCE Catalyst funded teaching and innovation project I am working on at Keele University. ‘Unmaking Single Perspectives (USP): A Listening Project’ uses dialogic pedagogies (designed to develop effective one-to-one communications and active listening skills) to bring students from different disciplines together for conversations that explore sustainable development issues and challenges in a non-confrontational way, enabling students to learn from each other and benefit from perspectives that may be very different to their own. We see multiple advantages; the communication skills are transferable to other aspects of professional and personal life and an increased understanding and appreciation of sustainable development issues is the first step towards collaboration and decision making that will be essential for students of today to bring to academia and the workplace tomorrow.

To facilitate these conversations our workshops have taken different paths, some have wrapped around public lectures on themes that embrace some of the dilemmas covered by the SDGs, others have employed a collection of images, representing each of the goals, as a prompt to inspire conversation. It has become apparent from feedback that individuals have found these conversations enlightening, as well as enjoyable. For the project team, Dr Zoe Robinson, Director of Sustainability and myself, and our three Student Advisors the journey has been an interesting one. We have all find ourselves much more aware of the communications process, especially listening skills, and refreshing and sometimes surprising new thoughts and ideas have been uncovered at almost every workshop.

Inspired by the recent NUS ‘TeachIn’, and to help spread awareness of the goals beyond our workshops, the Listening Project, in collaboration with Green Keele, recently put on a SDG exhibition. Entitled ‘Exploring Wicked Problems: Responsible Citizenship and Global Awareness Special Exhibition’ it featured a large visual display of the goals and explored each through supplementary material. The exhibition included images, information showing how businesses measure the impact of their green policies, how health and medical support relates to each goal, case studies supplied by our academics explaining how they have mapped curriculum to the SDGs, quotes and other material emphasising the significance of the problems behind the goals globally, and the responsibility locally, making the SDGs relevant to every individual. The exhibition was open in a central and accessible area of our campus during the ‘TeachIn week’ (19 -23 Feb 2018) for staff and students to peruse and ponder at their leisure.

Dissemination events, sharing our pedagogic approaches, findings and resources are scheduled in three locations (Keele, London and Edinburgh) during March and April.

You can find out more about the project by visiting the blog  and website or following @USPlistenproj on Twitter.

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