Sustainability and Curriculum Design: Exploring Issues of Ecology in Law and Social Work Education

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James Cook University has positioned itself as the “University for the Tropics”, an identity that necessitates a deep concern with issues of sustainability. As part of university wide efforts to refresh the existing curriculum to better reflect such concerns, the authors were appointed as curriculum scholars and tasked with building capacity for curriculum design amongst academics in a range of disciplines.
The disciplines of law and social work, with their traditional focus on social rather than environmental concerns, present particular challenges when moving towards the development of sustainability-oriented educational practices. Previous attempts at introducing sustainability perspectives into discipline-based higher education have often resulted in piecemeal or “add-on” curricular solutions. Yet the very nature of sustainability as a concept suggests that a more holistic and integrated approach is required. This paper discusses the use of ecology as a conceptual framework, or thematic lens, that can serve as a foundation for the re-imagining of discipline-based curriculum. Drawing on insights from curriculum development, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and education for sustainability, the authors develop a framework for an approach to law and social work education that is grounded in ecological understandings, and reflects a sustainability orientation while remaining true to the fundamental concerns of each discipline.


Keywords: Curriculum, Sustainability Education, Ecology, Law, Social Work
Stream: Environmental Sustainability
Presentation Type: 15 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Curriculum Design through an Ecological Lens


Peter Jones

Curriculum Scholar, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, James Cook University
Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Peter’s background is as a social worker, working with families and young people. He began working at JCU in 1997. Since then he has taught in most areas of the undergraduate and postgraduate social work programs, and has developed materials for delivery across multiple campuses and modes at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. He has been awarded two national ALTC citations for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning, as an individual in 2007 and as a member of a small team in 2009. He currently holds a Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia Fellowship. He has presented and published on a range of teaching and learning issues including topics such as ecological justice in social work education, transformative learning, and web 2.0 applications. He is currently a senior lecturer in social work and community welfare, and is the chair of the SASS Teaching and Learning Committee. He sits on a number of teaching and learning related committees and is a member of the JCU Learning and Technology Reference Group. In 2010, he was appointed as the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Curriculum Scholar as part of a university wide project to refresh the curriculum.

Kate Galloway

Curriculum Scholar, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Business and the Creative Arts, James Cook University
Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Kate worked as a solicitor in property and commercial law in private practice for 14 years before practising in a native title representative body for two years. Since 2004 she has taught land law and foundation law subjects, as well as ethics and public international law. In addition to a BEcon and LLB (UQ), she holds an LLM by research (QUT) and is admitted to practise in the Supreme Court of Queensland and High Court of Australia. She was awarded an ALTC citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning in 2009. She has worked on faculty- and school-based projects on curriculum development, including flexible learning, embedding indigenous perspectives and systematic curriculum design. In the field of teaching and learning, she has presented conference papers internationally and has published in areas such as pastoral care and assessment in web 2.0, as well as in property law. She is presently a senior lecturer in the School of Law and a curriculum scholar for the Curriculum Refresh Project. Her role involves advising and incorporating key project themes into the curriculum. She also sits on the Teaching and Learning Committee for the Faculty of Law Business and Creative Arts.

Ref: S12P0616