Essentials: Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Essentials About?

"The La Trobe Essentials (the Essentials) — Global Citizenship (GC), Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) and Sustainability Thinking (ST) — are vital areas of learning which all La Trobe undergraduate students will experience to foster the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to become future ready in the workplace and the wider world. The Essentials are designed to develop students' capacity to address our most pressing global challenges. This includes being able to:

  • Engage with the major economic, technological, political and social issues, and understand how these are often inter-woven;
  • Demonstrate flexibility to adapt to rapidly changing environments in the workplace and beyond; and,
  • Apply their knowledge and skills effectively and responsibly to help find solutions to these major challenges."

- From La Trobe University Essentials Procedure, November 2014.

Will every subject at La Trobe have an Essential in it?

No — There will be a distribution of subjects with Essentials embedded in them across each course. These will be organized across undergraduate subject offerings at La Trobe so that each student will have the opportunity to take each Essential at least once, by choosing subjects that have each of the Essentials embedded in them. Students will be counseled to ensure that, by the time of completion, they will have taken at least one of each of the 'Essentials' subjects.

Can a subject have more than one Essential?

Normally a subject approved as teaching and assessing an Essential will address only one Essential. This is the University preference. Practically it will be difficult to fit more than one Essential in a subject, as the Essential needs to be covered in at least 25% of the assessment, and be a significant component of student learning activities, as well as addressed in one or more of the Intended Learning Outcomes. If you think your subject might be an exception to the norm, you should talk to your course coordinator and your College.

Which subjects will have Essentials? Why has a particular subject been chosen?

The subject has been chosen for a range of possible reasons.

  • Firstly, it imight be a subject that will allow a large number of students taking the course(s) in your area to complete an Essential. It may be that the subject is a compulsory one for the course(s). Or it might be a limited choice subject with large enrolments. Or a large enrolment elective subject.
  • Secondly, the subject may already have some elements of the Essential in it, or clear opportunities for development of the Essential.
    • For example, BUS1BUF Foundations of Business is a core subject in first year for a range of business-related courses. The course and subject coordinators were keen that their students gain practical experience of working with people from diverse backgrounds, and to gain global perspectives on the development of business, so the subject was clearly interested in, and already starting to incorporate, elements of the GC Essential.

What is the Essential aiming to do in the subject?

Each Essential aims to provide a rich context for what is being taught in the subject, through the lens of one of ST, GC or I&E in ways that helps to broaden the students understanding of the discipline. Through the Essential students are to be engaged in content and questions that address global and future issues, and to think and respond beyond conventional boundaries, to foster adaptable thinking and the capacity to apply knowledge and skills in a future that is as yet unknown. Not all of the subject content needs to address the Essential, but there needs to be sufficient coverage so that the Essential can be included in at least 25% if the assessment. It is intended that Essential will not 'stand alone' in the subject, but be integrated with the other learning material.

What will the Essential look like in the subject?

  • There is no uniform way that an Essential is expressed in a subject. But each Essential must address and enact the core features of the Essential, as outlined in the Definition for Staff. Sometimes the Essential is built into a particular section of the subject.
    • Example: CRA1ECA Exploring Creative Arts has a specific, major creative project and written reflection addressing the theme: Sustainability on Site, in which students select a site on campus, for which they propose and develop detailed plans for a sustainability art project.
  • In other cases, the Essential is integrated across the subject, and forms an ongoing thread of content and inquiry.
    • Example: In HUS1FFT Food for Thought sustainability and food is an ongoing theme, and culminates in a mini-exam that assesses students' understanding of sustainability and food, as outlined in the Sustainability Thinking Essential definition.
  • Some subjects have a set of exercises integrated with other aspects of the subject that deliver on the Essential.
    • Example: In AST1IJI Introduction to Asia: Japan and Indonesia students first encounter Global Citizenship in the preparation of a short paper in which, in addition to testing writing and critical thinking skills, they are tested on their ability to consult and engage with the lecture and reading materials that includes the global dimensions of GC. Then in a small group exercise to develop a presentation aimed at nurturing teamwork and developing skills to negotiate differences, they are assigned to groups of three or four, each of which contains cultural and ethnic diversity.

How are Essentials approved?

Essentials in subjects are approved by the appropriate College Coursework Committee — see Approving an Essential in your subject.

How extensively does the Essential need to be in the subject?

The Essential being embedded needs to be an overt part of the subject, but preferably in ways that integrate or link with some issue or activity that is located in the discipline (see examples of what this looks like in the Examples and Resources for each of the Essentials).

Remember that the Essential does not need to be in every part of the subject, but it needs to be sufficiently present to cover each of the elements of the Essential

The intention is that, through engagement with the Essential, the student's view of their discipline is expanded, in ways that address issues of globalization and cultural diversity (for Global Citizens); complex interactions and responsibility for future (for Sustainability Thinking) and how to thrive in rapid change and create new ideas (For Innovation & Entrepreneurship) - this will inevitably mean looking at the complexity of issues that are currently at play or emerging for the discipline, including issues for which there are currently no clear solutions or even directions of development.

To some extent this places the staff member in more of a collaborative relationship with their students - looking together at the complexity and uncertainty that is open to being explored, rather than the staff member being a source of pre-digested ideas or information. This type of learning is well served by Enquiry Based Learning or Problem Based Learning — see La Trobe learning approaches.

The Essentials encourage active, exploratory learning in students, and are amenable to team processes and projects.

Do I need to cover all elements of the Essential?

Yes — the Essentials are designed to provide complexity, interactivity and some level of inter-disciplinary views. Addressing each of the elements of the Essential is necessary for the Essential to be fully delivered, and also for it to be approved.

What if I am not sure how well my subject covers the Essential?

You can use the Essentials Review and Planning Tools to look at how well the Essential has been incorporated into the Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs), Student Learning Activities (SLAs) and Subject Assessment Tasks (SATs) — see Developing an Essentials in your subject. The Guide to using Essentials Review and Planning Tools can help guide you through this process.

You can also work with a colleague to go through a Peer Assessment process to help you identify how well an Essential is covered in a subject, and receive suggestions for how you might improve this.