Building a Community of Practice for Sustainability Literacy at TU Dublin



Technological University Dublin
Organizations/areas of the university involved

TU Dublin


Contributing to SDG 4.7.1, SDGliteracy is an embryonic community-of-practice aimed at equipping faculty with the necessary learning resources and assessment tools to develop the sustainability literacy of their students.

Contemporary literature highlights a rhetoric-reality gap in the adoption of education-for-sustainability. TU Dublin is emblematic of this challenge, exhibiting disciplinary excellence within sustainability’s traditional domains, such as health, environmental sciences and engineering. Yet, by its nature, education-for-sustainability is transversal amongst contexts. Our project, sponsored by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, is focused on influencing faculty to embed sustainability in their curricula, based on the premise: sustainable futures require sustainability literate graduates.


By sustainability literacy, we refer to knowledge, skills and mindsets that allow individuals to become committed to building sustainable futures. To underpin our initiative, we partnered with the UN supported SULITEST, which provides an online sustainability literacy assessment tool, through a repository of MCQ style questions. Whilst the tool allows for benchmarking of student cohorts for ASSHE-STARS recognition, we have used it to raise awareness of sustainability issues amongst students in their academic disciplines and personal lives. To achieve this, a community-of-practice across the university has facilitated the sharing of authentic assessments in which the SULITEST is coupled with a reflective submission. Since the beginning of the project in late 2020, over 2000 students have taken the test and over 50 faculty have joined the community, registering as SULITEST examiners. 


A second collaborative element to the community-of-practice has been the creation of open education resources (OERs). These learning resources are currently being developed, mapped and digitally badged to the five sustainable development goal (SDG) clusters identified by Elsevier: [1] basic rights, [2] equal opportunity, [3] human potential, [4] environmental sustainability and [5] organisations. Additionally, the community of practice has facilitated several awareness-building events, such as world water day, fashion revolution week and a sustainable finance symposium. The OERs are being developed using Articulate Rise, an eLearning authoring tool used to create responsive learning content. 


As the use of our OERs and SULITEST gains traction, we plan to activate further demand and supply for the SULITEST and supplemental OERs, reaching a logical conclusion in which sustainability literacy is inherent in all TU Dublin education and research programmes. 

Results and impact measured or expected

In the immediate project implementation, SDGliteracy plans to achieve 3500 student completions of Sulitest; host 5 guest-based panel discussions or events representative of the SDG clusters, develop at least five OERs and engage 50+ faculty.


By publishing our OERs on, we plan to inaugurate a movement in which the academic community across Ireland’s higher education sector could collaborate on sustainability literacy initiatives. 


As the education-for-sustainability agenda, encapsulated by SDG 4.7, evolves, it is hoped intend that TU Dublin’s sustainability literacy data would be systematically benchmarked and used to inform institutional priorities for new innovative programmes. With European higher education systems adopting sustainability literacy as a core graduate competency, our project can contribute to a culture of teaching and learning in which sustainability is at the forefront of our review and enhancement processes.  

Connection with the SDG framework

To maximise impact, OERs are being designed using the UNESCO’s guide to ‘Educating for Sustainability’, which outlines learning activities for each SDG. 

Barriers and follow up

As with many innovations in teaching and learning, an injection of funding can be a key catalyst. A donation of funding from the National Forum facilitated the hiring of a part-time project manager, the acquisition of the premium version of SULITEST and other software and training needed to develop the OERs.


Considerable digital upskilling has been required to facilitate development of the resources, creation of the digital badges and their open-licensing. 


As faculty and students have adapted to the online environment during the COVID19 lockdown, the provision of online collaboration tools, such as MS TEAMS and cloud-based have been essential to project management.  


A key challenge with the authentic assessment provision has been ensuring that a common framework is used to allow students create a diversity of reflective artefacts. In this context, the DIEP strategy for critical writing was used – describe, interpret, evaluation and plan. 

Transferability of the initiative

We see transferability along three dimensions.


First, it is the intention that SDGliteracy will be a catalyst for ensuring that sustainability literacy is normalised, as per AASHE-STARS requirements, and is used as a foundational platform for developing ne


Second, it is also our intention that SDGliteracy realises potential economies of scope and scale by extending the community-of-practice across the higher education sector in Ireland. Sulitest test has invited TU Dublin, as the first Irish technological university, to lead a Regional national Expert Committee (RNEC) that would develop a module of questions specific to Ireland.


Third, SDGliteracy is one of a number of funded projects within TU Dublin aimed at advancing the education-of-sustainability. In line with TU Dublin’s new strategic pillars of people, planet and partnership and its new education model, the challenge now is to manage the synergies of these initiatives.