Wondering what else you can do to bring sustainability learning to the fore? This page encourages you to think beyond content to assessment and learning outcomes. It is through both of these mechanisms that we can be assured we are future proofing our students to learn the necessary skills and knowledge to be equipped for an ever changing workforce and society.  

Learning Outcomes

The Learning and Teaching Centre completed a substantial amount of work on developing learning outcomes associated with the Macquarie University undergraduate capabilities.  Here are some of examples of outcomes you could connect to sustainability:

Discipline specific knowledge and skills

  • Identify the key terms in [discipline/topic]
  • Discuss the key theories and research in [topic]
  • Prepare, adequately describe and interpret a [feature of the discipline/topic]
  • Construct a critical evaluation of current scientific knowledge of [topic]
  • Highlight and suggest explanations for different impacts of global change on specific places

Critical, analytical and integrative thinking

  • Collect and analyse numerical or categorical environmental data
  • Explain how information systems can be used to improve education and awareness about sustainability
  • Analyse and express your judgement about a range of historical sustainability phenomena in oral and written form
  • Critically evaluate environmental/social/economical theories and arguments
  • Interpret databases, graphs and tables pertaining to environmental or social data
  • Collect and critically appraise a body of literature addressing sustainability

Problem solving and research capability

  • Design and carry out field and laboratory experiments including hypothesis testing
  • Apply knowledge to solving problems and evaluating ideas and information
  • Use case studies effectively as a research method
  • Select appropriate techniques to analyse environmental or social sustainability
  • Analyse data using appropriate techniques

Creative and innovative

  • Display creative thinking skills
  • Develop new ideas and theories and construct cohesive arguments
  • Present ideas in new and creative ways
  • Debate some of the possible applications of ICT and web-based resources to the education of students, now and into the future
  • Consider problems from new perspectives
  • Generate a range of options and innovative solutions
  • Discern problems and gaps in knowledge 
  • Find effective alternative solutions to problems

Effective communication

  • Present ideas clearly with supporting evidence
  • Communicate the results of analyses clearly and effectively
  • Plan and present written arguments in coherent and documented form
  • Present, defend and modify an argument in a verbal presentation
  • Express ideas with clarity and rigour
  • Communicate complex ideas simply in jargon-free English
  • Present information in a coherent and integrated way

Engaged and ethical global and local citizens

  • Consider the ways in which values and ethical issues affect [area of study or topic]
  • Appraise the principal threats and examine responses to sustainable resource and environmental management [Note: could also be Socially and Environmentally active and responsible]
  • Describe the contextual nature of issues of governance and decision-making and the importance of native title
  • Examine the changing nature of resource and environmental assessment over time and at different scales, from global to local
  • Evaluate information, ideas and arguments including those of diverse cultural assumptions
  • Critically evaluate different philosophical approaches to contemporary issues in social, political and ethical theory
  • Apply philosophical theories and concepts to other areas of social and cultural practice

Socially and environmentally active, and responsible

  • Articulate future strategies to meet the needs of resource and environmental management in Australia
  • Explain some of the issues around a range of important and/or current IT issues including privacy
  • Identify some of the issues facing users and designers of educational materials e.g. plagiarism, copyright, child safety, equity
  • Effectively participate in a team to carry out a specific task
  • Effectively manage a group to maximise attainment of goals
  • Analyse and solve problems collaboratively
  • Work pro-actively and accept responsibility when necessary

Capable of personal and professional judgement

  • Apply and adapt knowledge to the real world
  • Describe and discuss complex environmental systems
  • Competently undertake projects of complex nature
  • Recognise the strengths and limitations of [discipline] in sustainability
  • Present a convincing argument for [topic] in relation to sustainability
  • Recommend a management approach for a specific situation [pertaining to one of the many local or global challenges]
  • Evaluate alternative solutions to the same problem
  • Present a balanced critical view of [topic]
  • Develop evidence-based approaches to assessment and management of [topic] in relation to sustainability
  • Reflect on how personal experiences influence your critical analysis capacity

Commitment to continuous learning

  • Demonstrate effective project management skills
  • Assess your own learning against a set of pre-selected criteria
  • Accurately assess your own performance
  • Reflect on how you have analysed information and solved problems, and incorporate lessons learnt into future work
  • Critically review your problem-solving approaches
  • Reflect on how you can apply your learning on other contexts

The Learning and Teaching Centre has developed useful information on setting learning objectives.


Assessment Rubric

The Graduate Skills project developed a useful assessment rubric for sustainability learning:
Level 4

Demonstrates a critically reflective theorisation of the concept, recognising it's evolution in the public discourse, controversial nature and location within certain theoretical and disciplinary paradigms

Defines sustainability as a complex process of adaptive management and systems thinking across disciplines and sub-discipline areas.

Identifies and critically examines the full range of sustainability aspects in any given situation, recommending and justifying an appropriate response.

Demonstrates the ability to make connections with other attributes, such as critical thinking, ethical practice and teamwork.

Demonstrates the ability to innovatively evaluate and adjust sustainable conduct strategically to fit the organisational context and consider competing demands.
Level 3

Demonstrates an understanding that the concept is constitutive of more than personal views and the three domains, critically recognising the relevance of external authorities, societal rules and organisational agendas.

Demonstrates knowledge of certain aspects of the process of sustainability such as lifecycles, stakeholder interpretation and systemic thinking.

Demonstrates the ability to analyse the sustainability aspects of given situations and identify and support a range of recommendations for action using certain processes and frameworks.Demonstrates an appreciation of the main sustainability issues, taking account of legislative and organisational requirements.
Level 2
Discerns sustainability across three broad domains of economic, social and environmental, acknowledging the notion of generational responsibility.Demonstrates a knowledge of the existence of sustainability frameworks and a basic understanding of how those frameworks might be applied to decision-making.Can identify the key issues involved and demonstrates a basic knowledge of their impact on professional practice.
Level 1
Demonstrates a basic understanding of the environmental domain of sustainability.Demonstrates knowledge of the ways of dealing with environmental aspects of sustainability, such as recycling.Demonstrates a basic but limited understanding of the resource issues of sustainability in the workplace.
Level 0
Understanding of sustainability limited to the idea of 'keeping self or business going'.  Unable to define sustainability in any of the three broad domains.Unable to use any aspect of sustainability beyond the definition.  Unable to apply even basic notions of sustainability to practice.Only focus as keeping their business or employment going.  Unable to apply legislative requirements to a professional situation.

Choosing Assessment Methods

Of the many methods of assessment in use, the main methods typically used have their own benefits as well as limitations.  For this reason, the assessment design of a unit of study should include diverse assessment methods, taking account of both their benefits and limitations.  The more diverse the assessment method, the more likely a student will develop the necessary skillset and mindset to appropriately deal with the challenges of sustainability, as faced in the workplace, and in daily lives.
 Type of assessmentBenefitsLimitations
a.Final exams
  • Assurance that the product belongs to the student
  • Assurance that students have attained the knowledge, skills and dispositions tested in the exam
  • Less time-consuming to mark than extended writing and thus relatively economical
  • Merely summative
  • A measure of 'poise', i.e. a capacity to recall information under stress
  • Often reproduction rather than transformation of information because of time limits
b.Essays and extended writing assignments - particularly those based on real case studies
  • Opportunity to develop an extended argument
  • Encourages depth of learning
  • Opportunity to develop capacity to interpret, translate, apply, critique and evaluate
  • Opportunity to problem pose and conduct inquiry
  • Opportunity to explore beyond the boundaries of what is known
  • Time consuming to assess
  • Subjective assessment
  • Often occurs at the end and leaves no opportunity for students to make use of the feedback
  • Often one-off and fails to require students to make note of, and utilise, feedback (value added)
c.Regular practical work
  • Keeps students 'on task'
  • Encourages students early rather than later
  • Formative in nature as there are opportunities for students and teachers to make adjustments
  • Can encourage application, translation and interpretation of concepts learnt
  • Can be time consuming for teachers
  • Can be seen as a 'hoop jumping' exercise if not used formatively
d.Field reports
  • Authentic form of assessment
  • Develops observation and recording skills
  • Requires organisation skill
  • Costly to supervise
  • Difficult to timetable
  • Need to consider ethical and safety issues 


Research article review
  • Requires interpretation and evaluation
  • Opportunity to understand how experts proceed
  • Students need to be taught how to review
f.Group work
  • Encourages collaboration, cooperation and communication
  • Encourages independence by students
  • Opportunity for authentic skill development
  • Difficult to assess individual input
  • Time consuming for students to organise
  • Time consuming for staff to prepare students for successful group work
  • Can disadvantage students if group work is not well supported
  • Can be used to demonstrate progress towards, and achievement of, topic or course objectives
  • Encourages understanding of complexity of professional roles
  • Enables synthesis of what students have learnt across a number of topics
  • Capacity to use new understandings in novel ways in unpredictable work contexts
  • Valid and authentic assessment as they can include real world tasks
  • Focus on higher order thinking
  • Students have to accept a high degree of responsibility
  • Needs careful framing of the requirements to ensure judicious selection and interpretation of material
  • Consistency between students is low
  • Time consuming for students to prepare 
  • Time consuming for teachers to assess
h.Class presentations
  • Students are motivated to perform well
  • Can encourage group cohesion and collaboration
  • Can enable peer feedback
  • Time consuming for all students to present individually
  • Can be traumatic for some students
  • Evidence for assessment can be transient unless recorded
  • Difficult to avoid subjective bias in assessment
i.Participation in learning activities
  • Can encourage more active engagement in learning
  • Can be used to foster more cooperative and collaborative learning
  • Assessment criteria need to be very clearly stated
  • Can encourage dominance by a few in unproductively competitive behaviour
  • Can be overly subjective to assess

Putting it altogether

Still confused about how you can make an explicit connection to sustainability in your unit?  Here are some questions to consider to help assist you:

Do you already make clear connections to sustainability in your unit through content and/or pedagogy?

  • Yes - please connect with us to share how you do this - we would love to hear from you!
  • Unsure - please have a look at the framework we use to identify connections. This may give you some ideas. Or connect with us for a chat.
  • No - please continue or connect with us to arrange time for a chat.

Do any of the framework content themes resonate with teachings in your unit?

  • Refresh my memory - what are the framework content themes?
  • Yes - do you have any learning outcomes associated with this content?  
    • Yes - please connect with us as we would love to hear from you and see if we can share your examples with others.
    • No - consider whether you could incorporate any learning outcomes into the unit by revisiting the examples above for some ideas, and/or consider making the connections to content more explicit in the unit outline.
  • Unsure - please do not hesitate to connect with us and we will be more than happy to meet and discuss.  
  • No - consider whether the learning skills of your unit reflect building a sustainability mindset and skillset.  You don't necessarily need to have explicit content to be considered as teaching in the realm of sustainability.  The pedagogical approach is just as, if not more important, than content.  If your current pedagogical approach does not align with sustainability thinking, consider whether it is possible to introduce elements of this through assessment tasks such as those outlined in the table above.  Students will develop the required mindset and skillset through tasks which require them to think beyond the more common test based assessment.  You may also like to consider whether your unit allows students the opportunity to reflect on their values and perspectives, highlighting where disconnect occurs between espoused and actioned values in particular.

Does your unit clearly articulate the learning skills associated with sustainability?

  • Refresh my memory - what are learning skills?
  • Yes - please connect with us as we would love to share them with others as examples.
  • Unsure - please do not hesitate to connect with us and we will be more than happy to meet and discuss.  
  • No - consider whether you already include values association and/or assessment tasks that would build the recommended learning skills.  In the assessment table above, tasks c through to i. are conducive to building a more sustainable mindset and skillset.  If you do not already include either values recognition or assessment tasks, perhaps you could consider including either or both into your unit. Please do not hesitate to connect with us if you would like to discuss this or use our support service to assist you in any way.

Do your assessment tasks provide students the opportunity to build the learning skills that can lead to a more sustainable mindset and skillset?

  • Yes - please connect with us as we would love to share these with others as examples.
  • Unsure - please do not hesitate to connect with us and we will be more than happy to meet and discuss.  
  • No - perhaps you could see whether it is possible to include some assessment tasks from the table above. Alternatively, please do not hesitate to connect with us if you would like to discuss this or use our support service in any way.


An extensive list of resources has been developed and collated to provide support for you to utilise in your unit.  

We are always looking to add to it, so please let us know if you would like to contribute to the resources in any way.  The Graduate Skills website also has a section dedicated to sustainability, which includes some useful resources.  The Learning and Teaching Sustainability site has a section dedicated to teaching materials, as well as a section that considers what is sustainability.

Please connect with us if you would like to share your own resources.

Content owner: Office of the Vice Chancellor Last updated: 31 Oct 2019 3:56pm

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