Researching sustainability at University of the Arts London: Learning through objects and critical frameworks (Workshop)

25th May 202312:30Harbour Suite 4


This workshop aims to demonstrate alternative perspectives in delivering sustainability literacy and research instruction in an Arts educational environment. By encouraging observation, experience and reflection, this workshop aims to demonstrate a democratic and empathetic approach to delivering sustainability-focused information literacy training that brings students close to a studio-based learning style (Appleton).  

We will introduce object-based learning as an aspect of sustainability literacy that allows participants to explore themes around sustainability through objects as primary sources (Raynes & Heiser). We will then use critical frameworks as a structure for further research and evaluation techniques.

Workshop outline:


We will introduce our work on information, materials literacy training, critical research and sustainability, contextualizing this in the Arts. Introduce the pedagogical theories central to our workshop, such as transformative and experiential learning (Burns), fostering criticality (Freire) and compassion and inclusivity in learning (hooks). We will propose ways of learning about sustainability through discussion and collaboration. 


Participants will co-create a sustainability-focused information ‘landscape’ (Appleton) by sharing critical narratives around objects and materials using a mapping worksheet as a tool or framework. The UN’s “3 pillars” conceptual framework will provide the backdrop to a set of critical questions that will aid participants in their search for more information resources (Brundtland).  

In conjunction with the methods described above, we will use object-based learning techniques to examine the stories of objects from the Materials and Products Collections at UAL, actively using information literacy techniques such as keyword building and evaluating questions to discuss and challenge our pre-conceived ideas about material narratives and their sustainability aspects.  

Finally, we will ask participants for feedback on the workshop. Comments and discussions that arise will inform our ‘Eco-literacy Toolkit’, a pedagogical aid we are creating for colleagues who wish to build sustainability research into their information skills classes and tutorials.