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Special Issue "Competencies in Education for Sustainable Development"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Education and Approaches".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 November 2018

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Dr. Mercè Junyent

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Website | E-Mail
Interests: education for sustainability; teacher education; ESD competencies; curriculum greening
Guest Editor
Dr. Gisela Cebrián

Universidad Camilo José Cela
Website | E-Mail
Interests: education for sustainability; organizational change; educational leadership; ESD competencies; action research
Guest Editor
Dr. Ingrid Mulà

Universitat de Girona
Website | E-Mail
Interests: education for sustainability; higher education; institutional change; professional development; ESD competencies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development clearly reflects the urgency to embed the principles of education for sustainable development (ESD) into all levels of education. Education is explicitly formulated as a stand-alone goal—Sustainable Development Goal 4. Numerous education-related targets and indicators are also contained within other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

ESD aims at developing competencies that empower individuals to reflect on their own actions, taking into account their current and future social, cultural, economic and environmental impacts, from a local and a global perspective. Individuals as part of society should also be empowered to act in complex situations in a sustainable manner, which may require them to strike out in new directions; and to participate in socio-political processes, moving their societies towards sustainable development.

ESD has to be understood as an integral part of quality education, inherent in the concept of lifelong learning: all educational institutions—from preschool to higher education and in non-formal and informal education—can and should foster the development of sustainability competencies. ESD is holistic and transformational education that addresses learning content and outcomes, pedagogy and the learning environment. It should create interactive, learner-centred teaching and learning settings. It asks for an action-oriented, transformative pedagogy, which supports self-directed learning, participation and collaboration, problem-orientation, inter- and transdisciplinarity and the linking of formal and informal learning to the development of key sustainability competencies. Further empirical research is needed on the development, assessment tools and the impact of new policies and programs related to ESD competencies.

This special issue focuses on ESD competencies from preschool to higher education and in non-formal and informal education. Suggested topics include:

  • Integration of ESD competencies in policies, strategies and programmes
  • Innovative pedagogical approaches to ESD competencies
  • Curriculum developments—teaching and learning practices to develop ESD competencies
  • Processes and tools to assess ESD competencies
  • Connecting quality education with ESD competencies development
  • Professional development in ESD (teachers, university staff, non-formal educators, etc.)
  • Inclusion of ESD competencies in teacher education


Barth, M., Godemann, J., Rieckmann, M., & Stoltenberg, U. (2007). Developing key competencies for sustainable development in higher education. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 8(4), 416-430.

Cebrián, G. & Junyent, M. (2015). Competencies in Education for Sustainable Development: Exploring the Student Teachers’ Views. Sustainability, 7(3), 2768-2786.

García, M.R, Junyent, M. & Fonolleda, M. (2017). How to assess professional competencies in Education for Sustainability?: An approach from a perspective of complexity. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 18(5), 772-797.

Kagawa, F. (2007). Dissonance in students' perceptions of sustainable development and sustainability: Implications for curriculum change. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 8(3), 317-338.

Lambrechts, W., Mulà, I., Ceulemans, K., Molderez, I., & Gaeremynck, V. (2013). The integration of competences for sustainable development in higher education: an analysis of bachelor programs in management. Journal of Cleaner Production, 48, 65-73.

Lozano, R., Merrill, M.Y., Sammalisto, K., Ceulemans, K. & Lozano, F.J. (2017). Connecting Competences and Pedagogical Approaches for Sustainable Development in Higher Education: A Literature Review and Framework Proposal. Sustainability, 9, 1-15.

Sandri, O., Holdsworth, S. & Thomas, I. (2018). Vignette question design for the assessment of graduate sustainability learning outcomes, Environmental Education Research, 24(3), 406-426.

Segalàs, J., Ferrer-Balas, D., Svanström, M., Lundqvist, U. & Mulder, K.F. (2009). What has to be learnt for sustainability? A comparison of bachelor engineering education competences at three European universities. Sustainability Science, 4(1), 17-27.

Shephard, K., Harraway, J., Lovelock, B., Mirosa, M., Skeaff, S., Slooten, L., Strack, M., Furnari, M., Jowett, T. & Deaker, L. (2015). Seeking learning outcomes appropriate for ‘education for sustainable development’ and for higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 40(6), 855-866.

Sipos, Y., Battisti, B., & Grimm, K. (2008). Achieving Transformative Sustainability Learning: Engaging Head, Hands and Heart. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 9(1), 68-86.

Sleurs, W. (2008). Competencies for ESD (Education for Sustainable Development) teachers: A framework to integrate ESD in the curriculum of teacher training institutes - Comenius 2.1 project 118277-CP-1-2004-BE-Comenius-C2.1. Available at: http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/env/esd/inf.meeting.docs/EGonInd/8mtg/CSCT%20Handbook_Extract.pdf (accessed 15 March 2011).

Stibbe, A. (Ed.). (2009). The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy: Skills for a changing world. Devon: Green Books.

Thomas, I. (2009). Critical Thinking, Transformative Learning, Sustainable Education, and Problem-Based Learning in Universities. Journal of Transformative Education, 7(3), 245-264.

Tilbury, D. (2011). Education for Sustainable Development: An Expert Review of Processes and Learning. Paris: UNESCO. Available at: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0019/001914/191442e.pdf

UNECE. (2012). Learning for the future: Competences in Education for Sustainable Development. Geneva: UNECE. Available at: http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/env/esd/ESD_Publications/Competences_Publication.pdf

UNESCO (2017). Education for Sustainable Development Goals: Learning Objectives. Paris: UNESCO. Available at: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002474/247444e.pdf

Wals, A. E. J. (2010). Mirroring, Gestaltswitching and transformative social learning. Stepping stones for developing sustainability competence. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 11(4), 380-390.

Watson, M.K., Lozano, R., Noyes, C. & Rodgers, M. (2013). Assessing curricula contribution to sustainability more holistically: Experiences from the integration of curricula assessment and students' perceptions at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Journal of Cleaner Production, 61, 106-116.

Wiek, A., Withycombe, L., & Redman, C. L. (2011). Key competencies in sustainability: a reference framework for academic program development. Sustainability Science, 6, 203–218.

Dr. Mercè Junyent
Dr. Gisela Cebrián
Dr. Ingrid Mulà
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • ESD competencies
  • Education developments
  • Professional development
  • Competences’ assessment
  • Quality education

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Open AccessArticle Proposed Model of Sustainable Construction Skills for Engineers in Chile
Sustainability 2018, 10(9), 3093; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10093093
Received: 6 August 2018 / Revised: 21 August 2018 / Accepted: 27 August 2018 / Published: 30 August 2018
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The training of engineers in sustainable construction (SC) is becoming increasingly studied, since sustainable construction not only improves the quality of life of people, but also provides comprehensive solutions to the environmental problems we face today and thus takes care of the needs
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The training of engineers in sustainable construction (SC) is becoming increasingly studied, since sustainable construction not only improves the quality of life of people, but also provides comprehensive solutions to the environmental problems we face today and thus takes care of the needs of future generations. This research is in line with the National Strategy for Sustainable Construction (NSSC) from the Chilean Government. One of the NSSC challenges is the training of engineers capable of adapting to the SC requirements. Although the competences in sustainability for the training of engineers has been discussed in other researchs, it has not been specifically in sustainable construction and it have not been grouped in a model that considers their degree of importance. The purpose of this article is to present a conceptual model can be used to design and evaluate engineering training programs in SC. The methodology to establish the skills and the proposed training model consists of three stages: Theoretical Phase, Methodological Phase and Validation Phase (surveys and interviews). 113 professionals who performed activities related to SC answered the survey. Interviews were conducted with five experts in training in different SC aspects. Three global skills are identified as: Sustainable Evaluation, Sustainable Construction Certification, and Sustainable Facility Management. In addition, the degree of importance of skills associated with these global skills was identified and assessed. There are five skills necessary for the future engineer, among them, two stand out: teamwork (collaborative) and ethics. Finally, the order of importance of the topics in SC is: energy, environment comfort, water, waste, and construction materials. A future investigation is recommended to apply the proposed conceptual model to current engineering training programs, both national and international. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Competencies in Education for Sustainable Development)

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