Delivering ESD and graduate attributes through Hybrid Problem-Based Learning

SML-PBL-WS-afterA workshop on the delivery of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and graduate attributes through Hybrid Problem-Based Learning (PBL) was hosted by the London RCE on ESD at London South Bank University on 15 July 2013.


This is the fourth of a series of workshops held around the UK in 2012/13, as part of a three-year project funded by the Higher Education Academy’s National Teaching Fellowship Scheme entitled ‘Hybrid problem-based learning: a scalable approach to sustainability education?’. This project is a collaboration between Keele University, the University of Manchester and Staffordshire University.


The workshop’s four sessions were a mix of presentations and group work, giving the participants both an understanding and a taste of Hybrid-PBL:

  • PBL: In at the deep end – Professor Pat Bailey (Keele)
  • PBL in a changing higher education environment – Dr Zoe Robinson (Keele)
  • Designing a PBL learning module – Dr Rob Boast (Staffordshire) and Rosemary Tomkinson (Manchester)
  • Hybrid-PBL: Getting to grips – Sophie Bessant (Keele) and Bland Tomkinson (Manchester)


Using case studies of the interdisciplinary sustainability modules of the partner universities, the workshop explored the Hybrid-PBL approach that has been developed to enable the delivery of PBL-style teaching to larger cohort numbers in a less resource intensive way for the teaching and learning of sustainability education.


Hybrid-PBL is a student-centered, group-based approach to teaching and learning in which learners:

  • Act as professionals with an emphasis on working in interdisciplinary teams
  • Develop team working, project management and communication skills
  • Investigate open-ended (‘wicked’) real world problems
  • Think critically, creatively and devise entrepreneurial problem solutions
  • Undertake innovative assessment (e.g. video-making, press articles, reflective learning journals)
  • Use social media and social networking as part of learning and communication with fellow students and staff


The workshop also explored the links between the case studies and this style of teaching to other pressing agendas in higher education, such as graduate attributes, employability, internationalisation and interdisciplinarity, transformative education and life-long learning, and flexible and online learning.


Photograph: Prof Pat Bailey, Pro-Vice Chancellor Environment and Sustainability and Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Keele University (by Asitha Jayawardena)


Note: Much content of this write-up is an adaptation from the workshop handout.  

More info on this series of workshops



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