Topic, background and motivation for the course:
Composed of 17 goals and 169 indicators, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide an overview of the UN’s major sustainability targets, to be achieved by 2030. The SDGs are becoming an integrative part of universities activities. It is expected that educational and research activities and outcomes integrate sustainability knowledge and competences aligned with the SDGs. To fulfil these expectations, students and academic staff need to develop a deeper understanding of SDGs in relation to their disciplinary fields, collaborate in multidisciplinary teams, have anticipatory and systems thinking skills, and be able to analyse and solve complex problems.

The overall aim of this course is for PhD students to develop a deeper understanding of SDGs by putting their own research in a broader context and understanding how it is aligned with the SDGs. Students are expected to move beyond their disciplinary boundaries, explore the different SDGs, their complexity, and relate them with their own research area and teaching activities. To do so, students will be introduced to literature, strategies and tools for a deeper understanding of SDGs, systematic problem analysis and solving processes, and they will revise and develop research proposals under the SDGs framework, including multidisciplinary collaboration.

Prerequisites: None

Learning objectives: By the end of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a deeper understanding of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Contextualize their PhD projects in the SDGs framework
  • Use a systematic problem solving process to develop a research proposal in relation to a specific SDGs
  • Demonstrate collaborative research skills
  • Reflect on their own research practice and future perspectives
  • Provide peer-feedback

Teaching methods: The course employs several teaching methods, namely:

  • Self-study activities (individual assignment plus preparation for course sessions)
  • Small lectures and hands-on exercises (in the face to face course sessions)
  • Group work
  • Reflective team exercises on facilitation
  • Peer and written feedback

Criteria assessment:

Two assignments (i.e. one before the course starts and one during the course)

Active participation in the course sessions by carrying out exercises, contributing to group work and discussions, and providing constructive peer-feedback. 

Key literature:

  1. Kolmos, A., & de Graaff, E. (2014). Problem-Based and Project-Based Learning in Engineering Education: Merging Models. I A. Johri, & B. M. Olds (red.), Cambridge Handbook of Engineering Education Research (s. 141-161). Cambridge University Press.
  • Holgaard, J. E., Guerra, A., Kolmos, A., & Petersen, L. S. (2017). Getting a hold on the problem in a problem-based learning environment. International Journal of Engineering Education, 33(3), 1070-1085.
  • Guerra, A. & Holgaard, J. E. (2019). Contextual Learning for Sustainability. I W. Leal Filho (red.), Encyclopedia of Sustainability in Higher Education Springer.
  • Turner, S. (2009). ASIT— a problem solving strategy for education and eco-friendly sustainable design. Int J Technol Des Educ, 19: 221.
  • United Nations. Sustainable Development Goals - About the Sustainable Development Goals. Available at:
  • UNESCO (2017). Education for Sustainable Development Goals Learning Objectives. UNESCO: Education Section, Available at:
  • Creswell, J. (2014). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. SAGE Publications. Chap. 1, pp. 3-24.

Organizer: Aida Guerra

Lecturer(s): Aida Guerra (Aalborg University, Denmark) and Roger Hadgraft (University of Technology Sydney, Australia)

ECTS for the student: 2.0 

Tentative dates for course: 26-28 August 2020

Place: Rendsburggade 14, room Rdb14 3.329

Max no. of participants: 25

Deadline: 5 August 2020

Important information concerning PhD courses: We have over some time experienced problems with no-show for both project and general courses. It has now reached a point where we are forced to take action. Therefore, the Doctoral School has decided to introduce a no-show fee of DKK 3,000 for each course where the student does not show up. Cancellations are accepted no later than 2 weeks before start of the course. Registered illness is of course an acceptable reason for not showing up on those days. Furthermore, all courses open for registration approximately four months before start. This can hopefully also provide new students a chance to register for courses during the year. We look forward to your registrations.