Type of Powerful Assessment - Problem based assessment


Arts & social sciences

  • Students have to develop a proposal to improve an existing policy addressing a key social issue including strategies and the indicators they would use to measure its effectivness (issues can include treatment of asylum seekers, aboriginal incarceration, disability rights, domestic violence; bullying in schools; the Ice epidemic) and justify the changes advocated. They have to come up with a catchy policy name, present their proposal in a simulation where they are applying for seed funding to test the proposal in practice. They have to include a justification of their approach by drawing upon all that has been learnt in the course.


  • Edit an actual (but de-identified) manuscript with justification for the key editorial recommendations made (PBL)


  • Students have to write an advice email against a specific in-tray briefing to a carefully created ‘client’ and justify their advice. The assessment criteria address the relevance and feasibility of the advice against the key material learnt in the course. Assessment also evaluates the quality of application of strategies discussed in the course on how to write powerful and courteous emails.


  • Students are given an in-tray of data from a client and a list of people they can contact for advice. They have to diagnose what is the problem and identify a feasible and relevant way to address it. They then have to give this to the actual client who plays a role in evaluating the relevance, quality and feasibility of the advice.


  • A finance portfolio. Students get a client statement and have to develop and monitor an appropriate share portfolio. The quality of the advice is tested using a ‘real world’ simulation over 5 weeks against what actually happened to the recommended portfolio of shares. The assessment task reflects what they would actually have to do as a stockbroker. As part of the assessment task students have to critically appraise how they developed, monitored and enhanced the portfolio over the 5 weeks and link their strategy and outcomes to all they have learnt


  • Assessment focused on social enterprise

Students work in teams on a social enterprise project in a not-for-profit organisation and write up an evaluation/enhancement plan (this is done offshore in a range of developing countries as well as onshore). There is particular focus on demonstrating that the suggested strategy is feasible and that is being implemented with positive impact. In some cases this may require one group of students to ‘hand over’ the action plan to a subsequent team in which case assessment is based on the extent to which their briefing is clear, evidence-based and helpful to the group carrying on with the implementation of the action plan.


  • Students in an international business course produce a press release. They are to research the perspectives on a set E.U. policy from a consumer group; business; media and develop a press release presenting a responsive and balanced view. This is seen to be a ‘powerful’ assessment task because it is relatively ‘plagiarism-proof’ and requires students to demonstrate their ability to:
    •  Appreciate and take into account different perspectives
    •  Address the dilemma of how to produce a balanced press release
    •  Integrates all of the key capability areas identified in the fellowship’s professional capability framework.


  • SBA 495 is Portland State University’s largest Capstone and engages over 750 students in 35 sections of a business strategy course that partners with an organization in the community to address real world business challenges. In this Capstone students learn to systematically analyze a firm’s internal and external environments and, through engagement with community partners, apply concepts and theories related to the formulation and implementation of business/organization strategies. Students join an interdisciplinary team; pool their knowledge, skills, and interests; use strategy to address a problem or concern of the community partner. Emphasis is on multiple functions and perspectives to understand diverse management and stakeholder interpretations, conceive integrative solutions, and address social and organizational outcomes.

(Portland State University)

Community & social work

  • A not-for-profit organisation provides a real world challenge and students work over a semester on a feasible, justified and practical solution. Each person is allocated to write up a section of the total report against a rubric focused on evidence that the solution is relevant and feasible which is discussed at the start of the subject to assure valid and reliable assessment.



  • In a final year community-based service project students work for 2 semesters with a community group on one of its key development priorities and have to demonstrate their ability to work constructively with the client, respond to their needs, develop a relevant and workable plan of action on an improvement area and commence the process of implementation.


Creative industries, Arts & Design

  • Production of a business case against a set of good practice guidelines for an invention produced in a cross disciplinary team.

(Creative industry course)


  • Capstone course in a Graduate Certificate in Education (University Teaching) – a negotiated project– the participants choose a ‘hot’ T&L issue and develop it into a conference/journal paper. Staged assessment is used: the first submission is the project proposal. The second is an oral presentation to peers with a collective focus on the challenges, unexpected barriers, how things have had to be changed, how to deal with uncertainty in pursuit of completing the project and suggestions for improvement from the class. An evidence-based self-assessment is carried out using a rubric supplied to the student and then the instructor tests the veracity of the self-assessment.


  • Education Social Studies (first year): This assessment task involves students in addressing historical and geographically located themes with a view to producing a childrens’ book on an interesting aspect of local (social) history. A key focus is on achieving the ‘feeling of place’. Students can pursue a selection of themes including the lives of the original inhabitants, the lives of migrants, what children did for entertainment in the area in earlier times etc. Students are required to locate and use primary resources and write the book at a language level suited to the child audience. They not only produce the book but submit notes on how they did it and a critical appraisal of the feedback received, relating this to the checkpoints on effective writing for the age group concerned discussed in class.


  • Actual examples of a range of different student work in math are given to trainee teachers with notes on the backgrounds of students – each trainee is to analyse what the student work is saying about how they are thinking, what the gaps in their skills/understanding are/what is the best aspect of each case and what most needs improvement. They are then to identify a strategy for addressing this ‘diagnosis’. Students come together in small groups to compare and contrast their diagnoses. They then implement their plan and evaluate the outcomes. Why is this powerful? It tests the ability to ‘read’ the student background and their performance and ‘match’ the most fitting response. It is authentic (the work is actually from real students). Students learn how to learn from each other, confirm their diagnosis and formulate a better response. It emphasises how the effective teacher needs to ‘read’ the unique situation and capabilities of each student and custom-tailor a response. Added to this are ‘killer moment’ scenarios – e.g. when a trainee says, “I’ll get one of my best students to help a weaker one.” To deepen the dialogue, she is asked, “What do you do if the parent of the bright student comes in and says, ‘Why are you using my daughter as a tutor when you should be giving her more advanced work so her chances of getting into an Ivy League University are optimized?"

(Dominican University of California)

  • Using the samples of five 3rd grade students’ class work on addition and subtraction provided on the course moodle LMS site, in this assignment the trainee teachers have to:
  • Correct these math worksheets

  • Analyze the student work
    1. What do the students know
    2. With what concepts and procedures are they struggling
    3. What does the class know about math collectively
    4. What concepts and procedures are a struggle for many of these students
  • Create a responsive lesson plan for the next school day
    1. Create learning outcomes based on their analysis.
    2. Describe exactly what they would do the next day to teach and reach all of these students in a 90 minute math time.

(Dominican University of California)

  • Trainee teachers have to select one special needs student and work with them on maths or literacy.

The assessment involves:

  • Developing a background profile of the student and identifying areas for development
  • Reading the formal assessment documentation for their selected student and then, from both (a) and (b) develop an individual management plan, with a justification
  • Implementing their plan and videoing themselves working with the student on it – noting the most ‘wicked’ moments and discussing what they did to handle the dilemma and to evaluate its effectiveness.
  • Working week-by-week with their chosen child and in University debrief class held each week discussing what went well and what didn’t with peers and the instructor. Particular attention is given to the ‘wicked moments’ and the strategies used.

The focus of assessment

  • To determine how effectively the trainee draws out the key lessons from the experience against the good practice guidelines discussed in class
  • To evaluate the personal, interpersonal and cognitive capabilities of the student along with their skills and knowledge in an integrated way.

Why is this powerful?

  • It checks the ability to reflect in action; the ability to ‘read and match’; and to change course if a planned strategy is not working.
  • It encourages ‘reading the emotional state not just the cognitive state of students. It checks trainees’ ability to manage themselves personally and their interpersonal capabilities when something doesn’t go according to plan.

(Dominican University of California)


  •  Purdue Polytechnic Institute’s UG Transdisciplinary studies in Technology Program. ‘The program emphasizes creation, application and transfer of knowledge through hands-on learning…. (it).. combines individualized plans of study, close faculty mentoring of students and a competency-based approach for traditional learners at a public research university”… (This approach)… shifts the focus away from traditional credit hours and instead measures student progress on demonstrated (capabilities and) competencies. The learning is organized around themes and driven by problems rather than seat time in a classroom…. A student must demonstrate expertise in eight broadly defined primary competencies in order to graduate. The primary competencies include design thinking, effective communication, social interaction on a team, ethical reasoning, and innovation and creativity. Each of the competencies is split into five sub-competencies…. Through the program, achieved competencies will be accounted for while an e-portfolio will showcase them and be added to the students’ academic records…. Dean Bertoline said competency-based education answers the call from industry leaders looking for a different type of higher education graduate… “They are looking for well-rounded graduates that not only have deep technical knowledge and skills but very broad capabilities for open-ended problem solving, greater creativity, ability to work in diverse teams and better communications skills,” he said. A video on the program is available at: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0BxdPFMVWz-l2ZVhIdVNqdXNUZjQ&usp=drive_web



  • In the concrete structures unit of an Engineering program students design an RC concrete beam against a given brief/set of conditions. They physically prepare the beam in a team & test it to breaking point and then analyse the data, including making direct links to the relevant theory and research. Students again in a team run tests on a beam that is a critical construction element. This assessment task requires students to bring together technical skills, diagnosis and the ability to work reciprocally and constructively as part of a design and construction team.


  • Engineering team project: embedded strategically in Engineering practice units across all levels. Teams are to design, build and demonstrate a product or process to meet a client need. This tests the ability to synthesise discipline knowledge and skills to meet a particular brief; self regulation; decisiveness; commitment; ability to positively influence others, project management capabilities and the ability to communicate in a clear and responsive way with both one’s team and the client. This project demonstrates both relevance and the importance of ‘reading’ what is going to be most appropriate and feasible and being able to then ‘matching’ the right, fit-for-purpose response. To date the assessment focus has been more on the quality of the product but increased attention is now being given the above process factors as well.


  • Ideas clinic
    The Engineering Ideas Clinic™ (https://uwaterloo.ca/engineering-ideas-clinic/) at the University of Waterloo supplements a traditional engineering curriculum with open-ended activities designed to spark student self-learning and exploration…We focus on design since this represents the pinnacle of engineering practice and integrates a full range of technical and non-technical knowledge, skills and abilities. Examples of Engineering Ideas Clinic Activities include:
  • Teamwork Activities. A series of six scaffolded workshops (so far, two are active and four are being designed) provides engineering students with an introduction to team-forming and building, team communication, and conflict management through team-based challenges performed in the context of relevant engineering problems. The last three workshops are intended to provide reinforcement and opportunities for application in the same areas in multidisciplinary settings. Each workshop is approximately two hours and provides an opportunity for both the introduction of theory and practice. Student reaction and learning are assessed via pre- and post-workshop testing and we also intend to measure anticipated improvements in final-year capstone design projects.


  • Dissection Activities. Successful product design requires input from a wide variety of engineering, scientific and other technical and non-technical professionals. Through the dissection of real-world artefacts, students are introduced to the design process through genuine design solutions. They are challenged to understand the analysis and trade-offs involved in design, the concepts of constraints and criteria, and to link the design to their theoretical knowledge base. For example, most of our engineering students dissect a coffee maker in the first week of their program. Assessment is based on their approach to the activity and their ability to reflect on and articulate their discoveries.


  • Analysis and Redesign Activities. Students are challenged to explore in detail how real-word engineering artefacts operate, to develop and validate appropriate engineering models, and to apply these models to the re-design of the artefact for improvement, to suit a new application, etc. For example, students may be challenged to develop a model of a water filter for a hypothetical competitor company, or to take a model fuel cell car and integrate new control to facilitate bump detection, etc. Major longitudinal activities are under development in this thread, for example, in mechanical engineering, the dissection of an engine in first-year, followed by analysis of various components in subsequent courses, and culminating in a re-design in the final year.


Contacts: Jason Grove (jagrove@uwaterloo.ca) Sanjeev Bedi (sanjeev.bedi@uwaterloo.ca)

  • Design-directed engineering education and technology entrepreneurship at Simon Fraser University. Here we study what it means to be an engineer using an open-ended design problem that covers all that we need to learn. The assignment (100 students) covers the following:
  • Customer needs and product specs
  • Refinement of these
  • Translation to a relevant and feasible spec
  • Success indicators
  • Info gathering and use
  • Building, testing refining the prototype

For assessment the team must hand in a report on each of above plus the different designs they came up with, along with evidence that they have benchmarked against what others done, and that their preferred design works.

(Simon Fraser University)

Entrepreneurship & invention programs

  • The combined business –law experiential strategy seminar at the University of Windsor, Ontario taught by business professor Francine Schlosser and Faculty of Law professor Myra Tawfik, brings together students from each faculty and requires them to help businesses solve problems ranging from improving efficiency and market share to intellectual property protection. Fostering that creative problem solving in its students caught the attention of the Canadian Council of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, which awarded it for being the most innovative entrepreneurial education course in the country at its annual 2015 meeting in Calgary. See also the strategy and entrepreneurship concentration at the University of Windsor’s Odette School of Business.


  • Harvard Innovation Lab
    At: https://i-lab.harvard.edu/explore/about/ - Launched in November 2011, the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-lab) is a resource for any student at Harvard interested in entrepreneurship and innovation. Programming is designed to help students grow their ventures at any stage of development and covers a wide range of disciplines. The i-lab offers a five-stage engagement model focused on foundational and experiential learning that enables students to explore entrepreneurship, meet and engage with a growing community of first-time founders and experienced entrepreneurs, ideate in human-centric ways, prototype and build to test the practicality of their visions, and launch and grow their ventures.

Some 31 cross university courses are offered ranging from design, venture founders’ dilemmas, commercialising science, eco-entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial science and leadership, entrepreneurship in Africa, creative thinking and organisational success to entrepreneurial finance, entrepreneurship in the online economy, trade, development and entrepreneurship and an E-Lab.

Assessment is predominantly project/thesis/group base.


Event management

  • Event plan creation in partnership with a business/organization – this is a real project (it tests in combination students’ personal, interpersonal and cognitive capabilities plus their ability to draw upon relevant generic and profession-specific skills and knowledge). The effectiveness of the plan in practice is then evaluated by the client against their original brief and success indicators.


Higher Education

  • Grad Cert in HE: participants have to rewrite a subject outline they are teaching applying the learning and assessment principles taught. They then have to justify their rewrite.


ICT and software engineering

  • IT and chemistry: online interdisciplinary scenario-inquiry tasks for active learning in a large, first year STEM chemistry courses with more than 1000 students enrolled – students from different disciplines are to work together to determine how best to handle a complex, real world issue with no ‘right’ answer – this was a UQ led initiative funded by ALTC/OLT in 2009.


  • Computer programming: work integrated learning project based on a real world business need – the lecturer acts as a coach but doesn’t write any of the code, only responds to what the student is doing with formative input.


  • IT: group assessment – select a project from a given menu or one of your own choosing, form your own group of people with complementary skills, develop a project proposal and present this to a panel – assessment is on both the quality of the outcome and the group process.



  • The student gets a client file and has to come to the lecturer who plays the role of a senior partner. The case has both legal and non legal issues embedded in it and students are marked on how effectively they engage with lecturer as a senior partner, handle the tricky questions put to them by the ‘senior partner’, how professional, focused and accurate the diagnosis is and how well they actually handle the documents (e.g. some documents must not be touched with a pen).



  • The development of business marketing plans commissioned by local tourism businesses. The criteria include how well the needs of the local business are identified and met, the relevance and feasibility of what is proposed, the clarity of its explanation to the client and the results when implemented.


  • Marketing: one of our partner businesses presents students with a real problem. Students have to identify a relevant and feasible solution that will be cost-beneficial and, at the same time, figure out how best to sell it to the client. This requires lateral thinking, understanding what motivates the client, ability to influence, clear, sharp and engaging presentation skills, an ability to think on your feet what the client asks a curly question during the presentation etc. Student teams present to the clients in a format similar to Dragons’ Den.


  • Taking different perspectives when pitching an idea – the aim is show you can read the different motivators of various players and match the right response.



  • Capstone: Translational Research (TR) is defined by the National Centre for Advancing Translational Science as ”The process of turning observations in the laboratory, clinic and community into interventions that improve the health of individuals and the public". The Institute of Medical Science (IMS) recently launched a new professional Masters program focused on TR. Central to the program is a Capstone project where students integrate their knowledge to create solutions that address unmet health science needs. The capstone is both a vehicle for problem solving and an opportunity for our students to demonstrate critical skills and competencies that are core-learning outcomes. These skills include networking, collaboration, teamwork, implementation skills, communication, creativity, problem solving and risk management. Unique processes and rubrics are being formulated to capture the exercise of these skills throughout the capstone process.

(University of Toronto)


  • First year nursing: the nurse has to explain a diagnosis to a patient and translate complex jargon into plain English. The patient is then asked to explain what was said back to the supervisor for assessment of clarity, understanding and impact.


  • 2nd year nursing: develop an intervention with someone who has a developmental delay – a case history is provided and the student must diagnose, assess and establish a plan of support – another student then role plays the client – feedback is given by peers, the tutor, and an experienced fourth year student who is already working in the field with clients like this.


  • Read the latest literature on midwifery and develop a brief on it for a local maternity unit. Assessment includes a review of the data gathered in a short survey on the quality of the briefing by the maternity unit staff.


Occupational Therapy

  • Students view an online video of a scenario played by actors involving a client family with a child who has cerebral palsy. Students have to identify what questions they will ask, what the optimum plan of action might be and give reasons to justify their approach based on what been learnt in the course.



  •  Critical thinking task (developed with Learning and Teaching staff) – the student is given an in-tray of materials – eg. A newspaper article entitled 'Essay Factories', blogs on this, research on cheating and plagiarism, and other inputs – the student has to evaluate the quality of each source of information and come up with a diagnosis of what is causing this problem and, with evidence, what can be done to address it.



  • Scientific research: production of research proposals on the influence of a given drug on driving ability – with group feedback followed by a final formal submission. Outcomes addressed – protocols applied; operationalization uses informed choice; partisan studies’ risks; sorting out one’s position on the dilemma of balancing ‘road safety’ with ‘medication’; every decision needs to be accounted for with evidence.


  • General science: students link up with an early career researcher and are asked to describe in plain English to school students what the research is about, why it is relevant to them, what is being discovered and why it is so engaging to do this sort of experimental work – as a way to encourage more high school students to consider enrolling in STEM and as a way to encourage UG students to consider this career path. Evaluated using a community service subject rubric.


  • Science students are instructed on good practice in doing a presentation then they have to develop a presentation to the Board of a fictional company which is planning to close down its R&D department on why this is not a sound decision. Assessment is based on an evaluation of the quality of the presentation, the soundness of the content, the way the case was argued and the effective application of the principles taught in class. This assessment task is ‘powerful’ because it gets students to think through why they are doing science and to identify what is most and least likely to engage people who are on Boards.



Social sciences

  •  Social sciences/communications capstone involving a multidisciplinary team that has to develop an integrated, relevant action plan to address a real world issue identified by one of the university’s partner NGOs


Sustainable social, cultural, economic & environmental development


  • Education for Sustainability at Western Sydney University: Developing ‘sustainability literacy’ requires the development and assessment of new ways of thinking and learning that enable us to recognise the connections between environmental concerns, social patterns and individual actions… and builds skills for inquiry, analysis and creative action. It promotes personal and social change, develops civic values and empowers learners to be leaders for a sustainable future


  • Climate change readiness tool design and implementation – a real project which tests students’ personal, interpersonal and cognitive capabilities in combination.


  •  In an Art Conservation Science program students work on a ‘real-world’ conservation case. Students are taught and then tested on: how effectively they can diagnose what needs to be done; how well they can match all of the skills, knowledge and capabilities identified by a successful art conservator as being necessary to handle their diagnosis. This includes appropriate use of glues/adhesives, solvents, detergents, safe cleaning techniques, identifying and managing ‘hot risk; areas, knowing environmental effects of the chemicals they are using risk assessment, effectively using electronic diagnosis instruments, bearing in mind intercultural issues. MOOCs are used to learn and self test the set knowledge and correct techniques off line. The approach uses a series of actual conservation cases (with what the actual conservator did for use as a comparator to the diagnosis of each group) for learning and then a new case is used for the exam. Students need to demonstrate they can successfully apply the above approaches to the conservation of paintings, paper artifacts , and other conservation objects.


  • The Aalto University (Finland) Masters in Creative Sustainability is a joint programme of the three Aalto University schools: School of Business, School of Arts, Design and Architecture and School of Engineering. The learning outcomes and assessment give focus to: Systems approach: The ability to implement systemic thinking into critical problem solving that creates new holistic understanding about complex situations in society. The emphasis is on global awareness within the context of local communities and simultaneous modification of different aspects of sustainability. Design thinking: The ability to apply creative problem solving methods and tools in facilitating dialogs, defining problems, generating ideas and obtaining solutions. Project management: The ability to manage multidisciplinary teamwork and promote and discuss sustainability in culturally versatile industrial, urban and business environments. Sustainability management: The ability to develop new approaches for creating sustainable business models and to advance business ethics and corporate responsibility. Students are also to develop an understanding of the way that different organizational forms support the pursuits in sustainability.



  • Interdisciplinary design and assessment collaboration for sustainability education in Art & Design. First year students work in cross disciplinary groups from the Product Design, Fashion Design, Interior Design and Landscape Architecture courses. They have to produce an integrated proposal for a request for tender in real world project areas like local projects dedicated to recycling, conservation, energy efficient building and campus sustainability porjects.


  •  Social & environmental accounting at the University of Gloucestershire
    Students in groups of 3-4 develop and present a proposal for a new sustainability reporting framework to a given organization. This is seen to be a powerful form of assessment because: It encourages creative thinking around a key aspect of ESD; it throws students in ‘at the deep end’ and they have to diagnose what might work, research parallel initiatives and match a workable, engaging response; and it has helped students at interview when applying for a job in this area.


Brings together Public Health, sustainability and climate change
Involves a case study – focused on the ecosystem of services in a particular community with a focus on improving public health
Students have to identify (diagnose) a hot issue in a particular site (e.g. air pollution in Beijing, floods and illness) and then determine (invent) how best to address it
In some cases virtual field work using 3D headsets is used.
Why ‘powerful’?

Addresses ability to emphasise, diagnose and read and match
Aims to overcome professional silos.


  • In a university-wide elective on Interdisciplinary Sustainable Development at the University of Manchester students are placed in teams and assigned a trained teamwork facilitator. Students are presented with a series of written project briefs and are given the role of sustainability consultants who must advice a series of clients on live, current problems, empowering them to make creative suggestions and think pragmatically how to devise an implementation plan that might work in practice… This requires them to balance economic, social and environmental consequences and take into account the ethics of the situation… Students are immersed in ‘wicked’ open-ended problems as discussed by Rittel and Webber in their 1973 book Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Formative and summative team project reports are marked on the appropriateness of their response to the brief; the use of credible and relevant information; their development of a creative and well-justified proposal and their application of sustainability principles.(For full details see Helen Dobson and Bland Tomkinson ‘Practical education for sustainable development through interdisciplinary problem-based learning’, University of Manchester Ch 3 in Richard Atfield and Patsy Kemp (Eds) (2013); Enhancing education for sustainable development in Business and Management, Hospitality, Leisure, Marketing, Tourism, HEA, York at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/esd_dobson_final_0.pdf).


  This involves:

  • Dialogue about hot issues: e.g local food. The students host the dialogue and run the class – the guests have different positions – e.g. green food vs the local buyer for a large supermarket chain. Others are business people, community leaders
  • Major assignment – plan, host, deliver, evaluate a community dialogue – with a focus on its aim, outcomes, how it connects to what is being learnt in class, logistics, recruitment, delivery, problem solving. Capabilities tested: how to listen; how to both influence and respond emphatheticaly to others; ability to read what might work best and match then deliver the right strategy; ability to reflect in action and solve ongoing challenges; ability apply the key lessons on effective collaboration.

(Simon Fraser University)

  • Students from all disciplines at the University of Kansas, regardless of their subject of study, can pursue a UG sustainability certificate. Completion is acknowledged on a student’s official transcript and allows students in any field to bring a lens of sustainability to their future career.... Requirements of the Sustainability Certificate include completing a selection of interdisciplinary coursework subjects, an experiential learning component and a final reflection. The experiential learning requirement involves participation in 60 hours of service, research or fieldwork with a campus department, community organization or business on a project or effort related to sustainability. The certificate joins six other experiential learning certificates at KU. Further details: http://news.ku.edu/ku-introduces-undergraduate-sustainability-certificate Cited AASHE news 15th jan 2016.


  • Enabling leadership for transformational teaching and learning (ELTT) in Sustainable Development. ELTT is a professional training program provided by the Sustainability Team of the University of Zurich targeting university educators. The curriculum concentrates on real world projects in each university and sharing strategies that are working effectively across the universities represented. Assessment is focused on the capabilities and competences for embedding sustainable development into tertiary courses or programs, the participants’ ability to reflect on sustainability in their working environments and to develop 
initiatives for systemic improvement, receive peer support for implementing ideas for sustainable 
development in courses, programs, and institutions, become part of an international network of ELTT peers and to foster 
continuous exchange.


  •  Interdisciplinary real-world sustainable development project in a developing country – Shelter in Bangladesh

In order to create sustainable solutions to the world’s most important challenges, global development professionals must reach beyond the traditional boundaries of their field of expertise combining scientific/technological, business, and social ideas in an approach known as integrated innovation. In this project-based course, students from multiple disciplines (engineering, management, health and social sciences) work together – using participatory methods with an international partner – to address a locally relevant challenge.
The final team report for the course is a proposal that addresses the real-world global challenge and context issues. Elements must demonstrate the integration of various knowledge sets in the overall scope of the proposed solution.

Proposed solutions (final presentation and report) are evaluated according to the following criteria: Interdisciplinary Cooperation, Innovation, Relevance and Significance, Execution and Evaluation, Sustainability and Ethics & Equity. Projects are also evaluated based on idea development/refinement from previous assignments. (e.g. how well was feedback acted upon and incorporated?). Several individual reflections and class participation evaluations are also incorporated in the assessment of the course.

University of Toronto

  •  Creating Sustainable Organisations. For assessment students are required to conduct independent research to develop a case study of a company that professes to be ‘sustainable’. The focus of this investigation involves addressing the following question: “Can this company make a business case for sustainability? If yes, what are the grounds for this business case?” The research report should include the following sections: introduction; the company; findings; analysis; conclusion; references. Western Sydney University (At: http://handbook.westernsydney.edu.au/hbook/unit.aspx?unit=200853.1)


  •  Leadership & entrepreneurship program: An assessment task which integrates learning into real world issues – ‘Develop an Ecopreneurship Business Plan’. Students are required to produce a Business Plan focusing on an entrepreneurial idea for an environmentally friendly product or serve. The operational concept for this assessment is ‘ecopreneurship’ (Isaak 2005) which refers to a type of entrepreneurship that focuses specifically on environmental sustainability. Environmental responsibility is defined for the purpose of the unit as a set of organisational initiatives designed to mitigate environmental degradation.

As a team of savvy ecopreneurs, you have been hired by a large company to present a business plan for an environmentally friendly product or service. The presentation and the summary must encapsulate the strategic development of this product or service. Below are some suggestions of areas that could form the basis for your business plan:

  • Office recycling system
  • Solving the problem of E-Waste
  • Eco-efficiency project
  • Eco-efficiency Consulting
  • Green retrofitting
  • A sustainability joint venture
  • A renewable energy system (wind, solar, ocean, etc.)

For further details see: http://handbook.westernsydney.edu.au/hbook/unit.aspx?unit=200863.1
& http://handbook.westernsydney.edu.au/hbook/course.aspx?course=3725.1



  • In a fourth year seminar course on “Advanced Topics in Christianity” the class is divided into four groups, and each group is assigned a specific literary text (e.g., Thomas King’s ‘Green Grass’, ‘Running Water’). The problem they are then given is to design an undergraduate course on Christianity and modern literature featuring the text they had been assigned. Students are also required to submit reflective learning journals throughout the course.

To help students with their group task they are provided with resources from the University’s Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation (e.g., on course design, and methods of assessment). The final project comprises two key pieces:

1. An annotated syllabus that would be given to the instructor hired to teach the hypothetical course, including a list of resources the instructor would need to be sufficiently prepared;
2. A lecture on the assigned text that would be given to the imagined students who had enrolled in the hypothetical course.

(University of Toronto)

Tourism & Hospitality

  • Field research on tourist behaviour with a report that makes sense of what is found against the research and theory taught in the subject with a set of suggested ways to take this into account provided and justified by the student.


  • Promotional videos and brochures custom-tailored to the particular needs and contexts of a range of island hotels and resorts.


  • Review of attractions and destinations tourism behavior through design of a tool or survey (group project), implementation with tourists and recommendations in the light of observation and interview – real project (tests key personal, interpersonal and cognitive capabilities in combination).


Transdisciplinary studies

  • Cross disciplinary assessment – Marketing students work with Engineering students on a project to invent and sell a workable, scalable and marketable robot – the prototypes are then publicly pitched and some have received funding. Assessment is based on a critical evaluation of the process of invention and cross-disciplinary collaboration, the success of the pitch and the outcomes achieved, along with the key lessons students will be taking with them for improved approaches in the next project.


  • Quest University
    Quest university is designed with one goal: to provide the most effective and engaging undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences in order to produce graduates who are skilled in communication, imbued with quantitative reasoning skills, instinctively collaborative, inherently trans-disciplinary in their approach to problems and engaged in their local and global communities -- broadly educated individuals with an informed perspective on the problems of the 21st century and the integrative abilities to solve them. (see: http://squamish.ca/discover-squamish/education-and-learning/quest-university-canada/)

The ‘Question
Toward the end of their "Foundation Program," Quest students take a course called "Question." While working with a course instructor and a faculty mentor of their choosing they develop a statement of their Question: a proposal for how they will study a topic of special interest to them.[4] This "Question" acts as the students major for their Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degrees and is much more similar to a master's thesis when compared to a standard undergraduate major.
Questions often range from being very broad to being very focused. For example; What is honour? What is beauty? What are the elements of successful habitat restoration? How can we manage infectious disease outbreaks? [4]
Questions are often framed in terms of several disciplinary approaches, key works and thinkers, or the sub-questions that will be addressed. This is largely based around the Foundation program's multidisciplinary approach.[4] This unique approach allows students to cater their academic research more closely with their academic interests. Each question is relatively unique to each Quest student thus providing a full range of academic pursuits and interests at the University.

Concentration program
The second half of the program is devoted to a "Concentration program". With the help of a faculty advisor, all students design their own program of concentration studies according to an interdisciplinary question or topic of research. Each student's Individual Concentration Program consists of four principal elements:

    • a statement of the Question;
    • a course plan;
    • a list of related readings; and
    • a Keystone project.

The Concentration Program may also include experiential learning components such as a semester abroad, leadership training, service learning, or an internship.
(Further details see: http://everything.explained.today/Quest_University/)