Including aspects of sustainability in the degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics: An evaluation based on student perceptions (2020)

Education is progressing towards having a more sustainable outlook. Numerous approaches to sustainability teaching have been conducted at different educational stages, but few studies have used quantitative methods to measure its impact.

The aim of this quasi-experimental intervention was to integrate competences in “Sustainable Development” (SustD) into the teaching syllabus of a degree at University of the Basque Country (Spain), in Human Nutrition and Dietetics through active methodologies. Seven courses were selected to implement ten activities, across four academic levels of this degree. Students completed a questionnaire both before and after the intervention in order to measure their perception of knowledge of SustD and to assess their sustainable intentional behaviour (SIB).

According to the results, their SustD related knowledge increased after the intervention, although this was not clearly reflected in their SIB. This study aims to identify good practices and the best conditions for future longitudinal interventions.

Pay Wall to access: Virginia Navarro, Olaia Martínez, Jonatan Miranda, Diego Rada, María Ángeles Bustamante, Iñaki Etaio, Arrate Lasa, Edurne Simón, Itziar Churruca. Including aspects of sustainability in the degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics: An evaluation based on student perceptions, Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 243, 2020, 118545, ISSN 0959-6526, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.118545.

Centering Equity in Sustainable Food Systems Education (2021)

Sustainable food systems education (SFSE) is rapidly advancing to meet the need for developing future professionals who are capable of effective decision-making regarding agriculture, food, nutrition, consumption, and waste in a complex world. Equity, particularly racial equity and its intersectional links with other inequities, should play a central role in efforts to advance SFSE given the harmful social and environmental externalities of food systems and ongoing oppression and systemic inequities such as lack of food access faced by racialized and/or marginalized populations. However, few institutional and intra-disciplinary resources exist on how to engage students in discussion about equity and related topics in SFSE.

This article presents perspectives based on multi-institutional collaborations to develop and apply pedagogical materials that center equity while building students’ skills in systems thinking, critical reflection, and affective engagement. Examples are provided of how to develop undergraduate and graduate sustainable food systems curricula that embrace complexity and recognize the affective layers, or underlying experiences of feelings and emotions, when engaging with topics of equity, justice, oppression, and privilege.

This work is part of the “Teaching Food Systems CoP” which was launched in 2016 by faculty members at Columbia University, in collaboration with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History, in parallel with the redesign of an undergraduate food systems course. The goals of the CoP are to convene academics and practitioners focused on SFSE, to: (1) support and grow a CoP for developing and implementing curricula in food systems courses; (2) share materials using systems thinking frameworks to teach about food systems; and (3) foster assessment tools on student learning in systems thinking.

Supplementary materials provide course outlines and valuable links to resources.

Front. Sustain. Food Syst., 28 October 2021
Sec. Social Movements, Institutions and Governance
Volume 5 – 2021 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fsufs.2021.737434

Leveraging Online Learning to Promote Systems Thinking for Sustainable Food Systems Training in Dietetics Education (2021)

Educating and training a multisectoral food systems workforce is a critical part of developing sustainable, resilient, and healthy food and water systems. This paper shares perspectives from a working group of educators, learners, and food systems subject matter experts that collaborated over the course of a year to develop, pilot test, and evaluate two interactive webinar series with a multi-site cohort of dietetics interns and graduate students.

The three-part format included a training webinar, a practice activity, and a synthesis webinar. All activities were conducted online between March and May, 2019. Materials from these sessions are available online including training webinar recordings, practice activity templates, and a discussion guide. Both series, while focusing on different topical areas within nutrition, introduced opportunities to practice systems thinking and consider connections between students’ core training in dietetics and the challenges of sustainable food systems.

The 20-person working group included stakeholders from the Future of Food Initiative, directors of dietetics education programs (henceforth: educators), and dietetics interns and graduate students (henceforth: learners) from four university sites implementing the curriculum in the United States. The programs collectively enrolled over 140 learners at any given time through in-person, distance, and hybrid programs. Because the series were offered as optional activities beyond the required curricula at each site, and because the four programs operated on independent timelines, the two series were not attended by identical groups of students.

In reflecting on the effectiveness of this format, we provide direct assessments of student learning from subject matter experts alongside indirect assessments from pre- and post-surveys fielded with learners. Learners who participated in an interactive webinar series demonstrated skills in several dimensions of systems thinking and gained confidence in food systems learning outcomes. Learners also shared valuable feedback on the opportunities and challenges of using online platforms for this experience.

As online learning opportunities become more common, it will become increasingly important for educators to prioritize strategies that effectively equip students with the higher-order thinking skills, such as systems thinking, needed to address the complexities of sustainable food systems. The interactive webinar series format described here provides an opportunity to leverage didactic webinars in combination with interactive experiences that enable learners to deepen their knowledge through practice with peers and subject matter experts. Though this format was piloted within dietetics education programs, many of the lessons learned are transferable to other food systems educational contexts.

Citation: Spiker M, Hege A, Giddens J, Cummings J, Steinmetz J, Tagtow A, Bergquist E, Burns L, Campbell C, Stadler D, Combs E, Prange N, Schwartz A, Brown K and Sauer K (2021) Leveraging Online Learning to Promote Systems Thinking for Sustainable Food Systems Training in Dietetics Education. Front. Nutr. 8:623336. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2021.623336

Equipping nutrition graduates for the complex realities of practice: Using practitioner perspectives and experiences to inform authentic sustainability curriculum (2023)

Maher, J, Ashford, T, Verdonck, M, English, E, Burkhart, S. Equipping nutrition graduates for the complex realities of practice: Using practitioner perspectives and experiences to inform authentic sustainability curriculum. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2023; 1– 11. https://doi.org/10.1111/jhn.13159

Open access link to article:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jhn.13159

Relevant to:

Dietitians, Practitioners, Nutrition students, Nutrition graduates

Questions the research focuses on:

How do a cohort of Australian N&D professionals perceive opportunities for integrating sustainability into practice? What are the challenges or barriers to realizing these?

Bottom line for nutrition practice:

We recognize practitioners as a source of experience, anticipating where sustainability discourse and nutrition practice intersect.

Abstract:

Background: Nutrition professionals’ function at the nexus of food, nutrition status and the myriad of determinants influencing these. However, defining our role in food system transformation requires a multifaceted and deep understanding of sustainability in the context of nutrition and dietetics (N&D). Practitioner perspectives and experiences provide a rich source of practice wisdom that can inform authentic curriculum to equip students for the complex realities of practice; however, there is limited understanding of these in the Australian higher education setting.

Methods: Qualitative methodology using semi structured interviews with 10 Australian N&D professionals. Thematic analysis was used to understand how they perceive opportunities and barriers for integrating sustainability into practice.

Results: Practitioners’ experience in sustainability practice varied. Themes were identified in two categories: opportunities and barriers. Themes that reflected future practice opportunities included “Preparing the workforce” (for academics and practitioners interfacing with students), “Practical individual level work” and “System level and policy interests”. Themes that were considered barriers to integrating sustainability in practice included “lack of contextual evidence” and “complexity and competing priorities”.

Conclusions: Our findings make a novel contribution to the current literature as we recognise practitioners as a source of experience anticipating where sustainability and nutrition practice intersect. Our work provides practice-informed content and context that may assist educators to create authentic sustainability-focused curriculum and assessment to replicate the complexity of practice.

Details of results:

  • Practitioners found it difficult to name specific examples of sustainability in practice, possibly because of the current landscape where there is a lack of consensus on what sustainability in nutrition and dietetic practice is.
  • Integrating sustainability into nutrition practice was associated with two themes categorized as barriers. These were: a lack of contextual evidence, complexity and competing priorities.
  • Integrating sustainability into nutrition practice was also associated with three themes for opportunities: learning and teaching practice to prepare the workforce; individual-level practice and application; and broader system/policy-level practice.
  • The results show that opportunities and barriers are interconnected, and it is likely that the perceived opportunities can be realized if sectorial, institutional, and government policies change and the profession advances and adapts.
  • Preparing students for practicing with a sustainability lens requires integration of sustainability in its various forms into N&D curriculum and equipping them with the skills and capabilities to contribute meaningfully to N&D practice from an individual to food system level.
  • Knowledge alone may not equip graduates to effectively practice for human and planetary health. Moving forward, practice insights provide a productive platform for curriculum development, both situating practice within the current complex contexts or “realities” at the same time as also considering a future that integrates sustainability and nutrition more closely.
  • There is a predominant environmental focus that may limit the effectiveness of student training, particularly in addressing more challenging and complex situations or settings where environmental concerns must also be balanced with social and economic realities.
  • If governments or institutions have not yet included sustainability within their policies, curriculum developers can. This will then shift the expectation of N&D graduates who may be able to advocate for change from inside government and institutions.

Of additional interest:

ICDA Learning Modules – These three learning modules are structured to support your knowledge in:

  1. understanding foundational concepts of sustainability and food systems,
  2. understanding the relevance of SFS to nutrition and dietetic practice, and
  3. being able to apply SFS concepts in your practice.

NDA SFS Position Papers – Several nutrition and dietetics associations are officially recognising the relevance of Sustainable Food Systems (SFS) and/or sustainable diets to nutrition and dietetics practice.

SFS Education in Nutrition & Dietetics degrees: Global Case Studies – International Dietetic educators integrating sustainability into their curricula. The is an online platform for sharing examples serves as a series of mini case studies

Teaching Food Systems and Sustainability in Nutrition Education and Dietetic Training: Lessons for Educators (2013) – This is a PDF compilation of research and experiential lesson plans from food, nutrition and dietetic educators in the US and Canada.

The Food Sustainability Index (FSI) as an Educational Tool (2016) – The FSI has an intended audience of university students and graduate students, by can be used for anyone who interested in learning more about the connection of food and nutrition to sustainable food systems and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Sustainability: nutrition and dietetic students’ perceptions (2020) – This Australian study explored nutrition and dietetic undergraduate students’ self-reported views and actions related to sustainability, with a view to building a holistic curriculum that includes content and competencies required to address UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Leveraging Online Learning to Promote Systems Thinking for Sustainable Food Systems Training in Dietetics Education (2021) – A multidisciplinary group of educators, learners, and food systems experts representing eight different institutions across the US worked together over one year to develop, pilot test, and evaluate two interactive webinar series. The series was provided for dietetics interns and graduate students at four university sites in the United States between March and May 2019.

Summary: How do dietetics students learn about sustainability? A scoping review (2023) – Despite increasing discussion about the role of dietitians in supporting sustainable food systems, effective integration into dietetics curricula is understudied. Some evidence points to the importance of experiential learning, and scaffolded learning about SFS through integration into a number of different courses.

Conflict of interest/funding:

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

Corresponding author:

Judith Maher, Doctor of Philosophy (Nutrition and Dietetics), jmaher@usc.edu.au

Sustainable food systems and diets in dietetic training standards: an international content analysis (2022 Dec)

Higgins, M,  Strother, H,  Burkhart, S,  Carlsson, L,  Meyer, NL,  Spiker, M, et al. Sustainable food systems and diets in dietetic training standards: an international content analysis. J Hum Nutr Diet.  2022; 1– 10. https://doi.org/10.1111/jhn.13122 (open access)

Background: Low professional confidence and perceived competence create tangible barriers to integrating sustainable food systems (SFS) and diets into dietetic practice. One opportunity to facilitate more systemic integration into dietetic education and training is to include these concepts in professional standards. To better understand the barrier of low professional confidence and perceived competence for engagement with SFS-related practice, the purpose of this research was to investigate dietetic training standards for SFS content and to highlight opportunities for growth within the profession. Questions posed by this research are: (1) how, if at all, are SFS and diets articulated in dietetic training standards, and (2) to what level of cognitive complexity?

Methods: A content analysis of dietetic training standards documents was conducted between 15 April and 15 September 2021. Search terms included ‘sustain’ or ‘sustainable’, ‘food systems’ and/or ‘diets’. Extracted data with applicable SFS content were analysed for level of cognitive complexity requirements.

Results: Of 47 National Dietetics Associations, researchers obtained 23 dietetic training standards documents, of which 16 included SFS-related content. The majority of documents used broad descriptors of the concepts, with little granularity and at a lower level of cognitive complexity.

Conclusions: Adoption of more robust frameworks for sustainability with specific learning outcomes that can be adapted to regional contexts would strengthen higher education curricula and thus the profession’s ability to contribute more meaningfully to SFSs and diets.

Key points:

  • This research examined how countries are training dietitians for SFS competence.
  • Of 23 dietetic training standards reviewed, 16 included SFS-related content.
  • More than 50% used broad/general language with little granularity; 59% require shallow depth of knowledge.
  • More robust frameworks adaptable to regional contexts would strengthen the training and ability to contribute to SFS.

Authors:

Madalyn HigginsHeather StrotherSarah BurkhartLiesel CarlssonNanna L. MeyerMarie SpikerJessica Wegener