The fitness of and purpose of the SDGs

Name of the participant and other supporting staff if relevant

Dr Dina Belluigi

Name of the module and discipline, level and  year of study and any useful background info

This module is ‘Curriculum Theory, Policy and Practice’ (EDU7103) and is a core module in the Masters in Educational Studies programme in the School of Education.


The module has a strong critical orientation to curriculum as a means for educational change. It seeks to support students to challenge dominant discourses about the formation of the self and the social, and about knowledge, in education at micro, meso and macro levels. To do so, students are introduced to various theories and debates about ideals, practices and experiences of formal, informal and hidden curriculum and policy. They are also provided opportunity to consider structural and agential approaches to addressing controversy, division, conflict, inequality and oppressions.

Name of community partner and/or any other supporting partners (public or private sector)

Centre for Global Education (CGE)

CERL project title(s)

The fitness of and purpose of the SDGs

 Within one of the earliest sessions, the Director of the CGE was invited to present on the importance of education about global inequalities and to introduce the student to a new curriculum developed by the Centre which problematises the SDGs. Materials related to that curriculum were shared, and students encouraged to consider the fitness for purpose of the materials. Due to Covid19 restrictions for off campus presenters, Stephen presented online live, with students asking questions. A recording was made available to the students; hyperlinks to the curriculum material; hyperlinks to the journal hosted by the CGE, and a hardcopy of the journal’s centenary publication was gifted to each student.

 Students were invited to consider analysing this curriculum for their final assignments, and given access to the CGE for further engagement. None of the students chose this as their assignment; however it is possible some may have elected to do so for this dissertation (the latter as randomly allocated to various supervisors).

What they changed about their programme/course in relation to CERL

 The module was previously front-loaded with theory and general topics. Now the module is moving towards foregrounding global challenges – with SDGs being one macro-level curriculum approach. This allowed the approaches of the partner, the Centre for Global Education, to be cited as a case study of one engagement with the SDGs at an educational level. 

 In general it is very challenging to integrate this level of engagement within so called ‘taught’ modules within a generalist masters degree as the modules are intended to be broad introductions (rather than depth), are set in length, and assignment topics are strongly self-directed.  Ideally, deeper, direct engagement with a community partner would be more suitable for a group work assignment within a specific module on education and the SDGs, or better for a dissertation. 

Can you provide any tangible info – e.g. module descriptor, learning outcomes, assignments, assessment criteria –


Module descriptor:

 Questions about what constitutes the purpose of educational policy and the fitness-for-purpose of curricula are prevalent in contemporary discourses about education across the life course, and across the globe. From the macro-level to the micro, these debates are important because they have to do with educational and societal change, and whose needs such change should serve. This module will provide you with an opportunity to reflect on curriculum theory, policy and practice. It will investigate socio-political and theoretical influences on curriculum development and provide analytical concepts and skills. Sessions include opportunity to examine how knowledge is organized and de/legitimised in the curriculum; social formation within the hidden curriculum; and the role of the curriculum in societies with legacies of conflict, inequality and division, and in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals and global challenges.

 Students are provided with opportunities throughout the course to reflect and build their skills of analysis.

 The course is delivered in an active and participatory manner.

 The aims of the module are to enable students to:

 ·        develop their knowledge of the key theoretical debates in relation to the nature and design of the curriculum

·        critically examine curriculum frameworks and policy at various levels (micro-, meso-, macro-)

·        ascertain the relationship between curriculum and educational inequality with particular reference to the hidden curriculum

·        articulate the relationship between curriculum, assessment, learning and pedagogy/ andragogy

·        explore the role of curriculum in societies facing complex challenges 

How was it taught:

·        number of students

·        student groupwork or individual,

·        how they worked with the partner,

·        how the project proceeded,

·        any reflection done with students,

·        evaluation or formal assessment of their learning,

·        Could or should we follow up with students?

·        tech used

·        Anything else interesting?

It carries the equivalent of 20 CATS and is assessed 75% on the final essay assignment (analysing the fitness for purpose of a particular curriculum or policy), and 25% on a digital story (of a counter-story or hidden curriculum). 

In the past year, there were 38 students, all of whom completed individual assignments on an aspect of educational change. The student body is very international, a large portion of whom are from China. The mode of delivery was blended, with much materials curated online or designed for online engagement. Weekly in-person sessions were held as interactive tutorials with peer participation. 

What did your students learn or how will they benefit?

Most of the students had never heard of, nor considered, development education or global citizenship in their undergraduate studies in education nor their own education. This was cross-cutting, regardless of context. As such, while they may not have considered analysing the case of the CGE, the introduction to its curriculum was a novel learning experience for almost all the students. This was not anticipated, and in future iterations more will be done to explain the ‘what’ before we get to the actual case itself. Raising consciousness of this area of teaching, and its importance, may be the contribution at the level of this module.

What do you think the benefit was to the partner? Do they have any feedback from the partner?

CGE were very much interested in receiving critical feedback on their materials by student teachers. They did not receive this from this cohort, and it is possible that they are not inducted enough to offer that level of critique. However, it did indicate what may be required to engage novice teachers with the important questions raised by the CGE programme.

 As the CGE is very much informed by critical pedagogy, the consciousness raising of the talk was not an invalid outcome of the presentation and engagement. 

How could/will you improve your CERL teaching practice next time?

Apply the content of a number of the topics to analysing the material of the partner throughout the module, so that the students learn to re-engage in a spiral curriculum with the purpose of that curriculum and consider the complications to implementation in their contexts.

Any challenges and how you overcame them


I had hoped to suggest the partnership for more sustained study, such as part of the M.Ed Studies dissertation. 

However, it does not seem to be possible to make changes to the dissertation element of the programme and there is only so much that can be done within my individual module (beyond discussion of a case study, as described above).  There is also a challenge in building this in to dissertations since typically students are not allocated to supervisors based on interest or expertise within the School, nor can one suggest topic areas for students to select.

Advice you would give to someone starting a CERL project with students?


Start slowly, build a relationship with your community partner (I sit on the Board of CGE and had lots of conversations about the issues she addressed in the module. I was also able to moderate the expectation of the partner, and to elicit his advice.) 

Seek various opportunities. From this engagement, I know have a better understanding of what the CGE does on the ground and so have shared their work with research partners (such as Cara’s Syrian fellows), with Visiting Scholars (educators from South Africa will be visiting with the CGE when hosted at QUB in June 2022) et cetera. In such ways, while the community partner did not necessarily benefit from engagement with the students, they may benefit from other aspects of the relationship with me/ QUB.