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Special Issue "Sustainability in Education: a Critical Reappraisal of Practice and Purpose"

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A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2013)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. William Scott

Department of Education, University of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, UK
Website | E-Mail
Phone: +44 1225 386648
Fax: +44 1225 386113
Interests: learning in sustainable development

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The argument that education programmes should focus on the relationship between the quality of the natural environment and humanity’s socio-economic development is at least 50 years old.  It is premised on three linked propositions.  The first is that humans are increasingly over-taxing the biosphere’s ability to support life.  The second is that gross inequalities between people across the world in terms of access to resources and achieving well-being are an affront to human dignity and a source of international and intercultural instability.  These have led to the conclusion that different ways of socio-economic development are needed that will enable everyone to live well, and within the Earth’s ability to support us – now and into the future.  The third proposition is that education, viewed broadly, is a critical social strategy if these issues are to be successfully addressed, and hence the need for education of all kinds that focuses on sustainability.

This special issue examines this last proposition, and research-based papers are invited which cast a critical eye on the practice and purpose of sustainability-focused education, and its successes and failures, thus far.

Prof. Dr. William Scott
Guest Editor

Submission

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. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as 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 refereed through a 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 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs).

Keywords

  • education
  • learning
  • research
  • evaluation
  • sustainability
  • sustainable development
  • pedagogy
  • curriculum

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Reflecting on Education for Sustainable Development through Two Lenses: Ability Studies and Disability Studies
Sustainability 2013, 5(6), 2327-2342; doi:10.3390/su5062327
Received: 24 April 2013 / Revised: 6 May 2013 / Accepted: 15 May 2013 / Published: 24 May 2013
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (539 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The call for papers asked to cast “a critical eye on the practice and purpose of sustainability-focused education, and its successes and failures, thus far”. We approach this task in this paper through two lenses that have not yet been very visible in
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The call for papers asked to cast “a critical eye on the practice and purpose of sustainability-focused education, and its successes and failures, thus far”. We approach this task in this paper through two lenses that have not yet been very visible in the education for sustainable development (ESD) discourse. One is the lens of disability studies which is the inquiry around the lived reality of disabled people; the other is the lens of ability studies which among others investigates (a) which abilities are seen as essential in a given context; (b) the dynamic of how an ability expectation consensus is reached, if it is reached and (c) the impact of ability expectations. We conclude that (a) no consensus has been reached within ESD discourses as to the process of how to identify essential abilities and as to a list of abilities seen as important and (b) that disabled people are invisible in the formal and informal ESD discourse. We expect the paper to be of interest to disabled people, ESD scholars, teachers of ESD in different educational settings, students of ESD training, NGOs involved in ESD as well as policy makers involved in ESD. Full article
Open AccessArticle Do We Teach What We Preach? An International Comparison of Problem- and Project-Based Learning Courses in Sustainability
Sustainability 2013, 5(4), 1725-1746; doi:10.3390/su5041725
Received: 11 February 2013 / Revised: 10 April 2013 / Accepted: 11 April 2013 / Published: 23 April 2013
Cited by 23 | PDF Full-text (843 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Problem- and project-based learning (PPBL) courses in sustainability address real-world sustainability problems. They are considered powerful educational settings for building students’ sustainability expertise. In practice, however, these courses often fail to fully incorporate sustainability competencies, participatory research education, and experiential learning. Only few
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Problem- and project-based learning (PPBL) courses in sustainability address real-world sustainability problems. They are considered powerful educational settings for building students’ sustainability expertise. In practice, however, these courses often fail to fully incorporate sustainability competencies, participatory research education, and experiential learning. Only few studies exist that compare and appraise PPBL courses internationally against a synthesized body of the literature to create an evidence base for designing PPBL courses. This article introduces a framework for PPBL courses in sustainability and reviews PPBL practice in six programs around the world (Europe, North America, Australia). Data was collected through semi-structured qualitative interviews with course instructors and program officers, as well as document analysis. Findings indicate that the reviewed PPBL courses are of high quality and carefully designed. Each PPBL course features innovative approaches to partnerships between the university and private organizations, extended peer-review, and the role of knowledge brokers. Yet, the findings also indicate weaknesses including paucity of critical learning objectives, solution-oriented research methodology, and follow-up research on implementation. Through the comparative design, the study reveals improvement strategies for the identified challenges and provides guidance for design and redesign of PPBL courses. Full article
Open AccessArticle Locative Meaning-making: An Arts-based Approach to Learning for Sustainable Development
Sustainability 2013, 5(4), 1645-1660; doi:10.3390/su5041645
Received: 11 February 2013 / Revised: 26 March 2013 / Accepted: 9 April 2013 / Published: 18 April 2013
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (517 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The term sustainable development is often criticized for having lost credibility due to a lack of clear-cut delineation. The same holds true for education designed to foster sustainable development often referred to as education for sustainable development (ESD). This contribution agrees that the
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The term sustainable development is often criticized for having lost credibility due to a lack of clear-cut delineation. The same holds true for education designed to foster sustainable development often referred to as education for sustainable development (ESD). This contribution agrees that the term suffers from a want of meaning, but argues that the persistent hunt for a definition—i.e., a fixed generic description—produces rather than resolves this deficit. What sustainable development means is context and time dependent and is therefore necessarily ambiguous, open-ended and dynamic. Hence, the success of ESD depends on the paradoxical imperative of reducing vagueness while at the same time maintaining ambiguity. This paper explores how this can be established and proposes a process informed by the arts.  Drawing from dialogic practices, site-specific theatre and a project conducted in a British village, this writing discusses elements that constitute a process of “context-based meaning finding”. It concludes that ESD essentially starts with and revolves around re-embedding SD in life and the act of living, engaging people in place through processes in which communities yield their own, context and time specific interpretations of sustainable development. Full article
Open AccessArticle Reclaim “Education” in Environmental and Sustainability Education Research
Sustainability 2013, 5(4), 1598-1616; doi:10.3390/su5041598
Received: 1 March 2013 / Revised: 12 March 2013 / Accepted: 2 April 2013 / Published: 16 April 2013
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (538 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The nascent research area of Environmental and Sustainability Education (ESE) needs a firm grounding in educational philosophy in order to focus more on education. This conclusion is based on experiences at two recent conferences focusing on research in this field. Issues related
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The nascent research area of Environmental and Sustainability Education (ESE) needs a firm grounding in educational philosophy in order to focus more on education. This conclusion is based on experiences at two recent conferences focusing on research in this field. Issues related to content, attitudes and long-term aims dominated at these conferences, while learning processes were often taken for granted. Full article
Open AccessArticle Divergent Evolution in Education for Sustainable Development Policy in the United Kingdom: Current Status, Best Practice, and Opportunities for the Future
Sustainability 2013, 5(4), 1522-1544; doi:10.3390/su5041522
Received: 31 January 2013 / Revised: 23 March 2013 / Accepted: 27 March 2013 / Published: 11 April 2013
Cited by 6 | PDF Full-text (763 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper discusses the current status of all aspects of education for sustainable development (ESD) across the United Kingdom (UK), drawing on evidence from its political jurisdictions (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales), and setting out some characteristics of best practice. The paper
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This paper discusses the current status of all aspects of education for sustainable development (ESD) across the United Kingdom (UK), drawing on evidence from its political jurisdictions (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales), and setting out some characteristics of best practice. The paper analyzes current barriers to progress, and outlines future opportunities for enhancing the core role of education and learning in the pursuit of a more sustainable future. Although effective ESD exists at all levels, and in most learning contexts across the UK, with good teaching and enhanced learner outcomes, the authors argue that a wider adoption of ESD would result from the development of a strategic framework which puts it at the core of the education policy agenda in every jurisdiction. This would provide much needed coherence, direction and impetus to existing initiatives, scale up and build on existing good practice, and prevent unnecessary duplication of effort and resources. The absence of an overarching UK strategy for sustainable development that sets out a clear vision about the contribution learning can make to its goals is a major barrier to progress. This strategy needs to be coupled with the establishment of a pan-UK forum for overseeing the promotion, implementation and evaluation of ESD. Full article
Open AccessArticle Knowledge of Indonesian University Students on the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources
Sustainability 2013, 5(4), 1443-1460; doi:10.3390/su5041443
Received: 16 January 2013 / Revised: 20 February 2013 / Accepted: 22 February 2013 / Published: 28 March 2013
PDF Full-text (1133 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Graduates of university programs addressing sustainable resource management are likely to shape strategies for natural resource use in the future. Their academic training needs to foster student knowledge of the multiple dimensions of natural resource management. This paper investigates university student understanding of
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Graduates of university programs addressing sustainable resource management are likely to shape strategies for natural resource use in the future. Their academic training needs to foster student knowledge of the multiple dimensions of natural resource management. This paper investigates university student understanding of such challenges. We differentiated situational, conceptual, and procedural types of knowledge, and three domains of knowledge (ecological, socio-economic and institutional knowledge), and sampled beginners (third semester) and seniors (seventh semester) of seven natural resource related programs at the leading Indonesian institution of higher education in the field of natural resource management (IPB Bogor; n = 882). The questionnaire consisted of multiple choice and rating scale items covering ‘locally’ relevant open-access resource use issues. With a confirmatory tau-equivalent LISREL model, construct validity was assessed. The ability to extract relevant information from problem descriptions provided (situational knowledge) did not differ between third and seventh semester students. While it was high for ecological and socio-economic items, it was markedly lower for institutional knowledge. Knowledge of relevant scientific concepts (conceptual knowledge) increased in the ecological and socio-economic domains but the effect was small. Conceptual knowledge in the socio-economical and institutional domains tended to be lower than ecological knowledge. Although there was certain improvement, student judgments on the efficacy of resource management options (procedural knowledge) differed strongly from expert judgments for beginners as well as for senior students. We conclude that many of the university students in the sampled programs displayed substantial gaps in their capacity to solve complex, real-world natural resource management problems. Specifically, the socio-economic and institutional knowledge domains—and their integration with ecological knowledge—may require attention by educational planners. Full article
Open AccessArticle From Talloires to Turin: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Declarations for Sustainability in Higher Education
Sustainability 2013, 5(4), 1356-1371; doi:10.3390/su5041356
Received: 25 January 2013 / Revised: 8 March 2013 / Accepted: 12 March 2013 / Published: 25 March 2013
Cited by 7 | PDF Full-text (467 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Declarations for sustainability in higher education are often seen as a set of guiding principles that aid institutions of higher learning to incorporate the concept of sustainability into their various institutional dimensions. As the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development draws to a
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Declarations for sustainability in higher education are often seen as a set of guiding principles that aid institutions of higher learning to incorporate the concept of sustainability into their various institutional dimensions. As the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development draws to a close and in the shadow of the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, it seems appropriate to re-evaluate how these declarations have changed over the past two decades. In this study, we apply critical discourse analysis to examine how sustainability and the university are socio-politically constructed within these documents. Our analysis uncovers evidence of ideological assumptions and structures that are potentially misaligned with notions of sustainability often discussed in the Sustainability in Higher Education (SHE) literature. It is not the purpose of this study to provide a definitive reading of the documents, but rather to ply a novel critical lens to help elucidate how some taken-for-granted assumptions present in the declarations may work against their stated goals. Full article
Open AccessArticle Creating a Learning Environment to Promote Food Sustainability Issues in Primary Schools? Staff Perceptions of Implementing the Food for Life Partnership Programme
Sustainability 2013, 5(3), 1128-1140; doi:10.3390/su5031128
Received: 25 January 2013 / Revised: 12 February 2013 / Accepted: 28 February 2013 / Published: 8 March 2013
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (564 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
There is increasing interest in the role that schools can play in promoting education for sustainable development (ESD), and evidence is emerging that schools can be influential in the emerging agenda around the ecological, ethical and social aspects of food, diet and nutrition.
[...] Read more.
There is increasing interest in the role that schools can play in promoting education for sustainable development (ESD), and evidence is emerging that schools can be influential in the emerging agenda around the ecological, ethical and social aspects of food, diet and nutrition. With regard to such food sustainability issues, this paper analyses the role of the Food for Life Partnership national programme in supporting garden and farm-based learning activities in 55 primary schools in England, UK. Using a mixed methods approach, the study examined the programme’s implementation through staff perceptions and a range of school change indicators. The study found that the programme delivery was associated with widespread institutional reforms. According to staff, implementation of the programme provided a range of opportunities for pupils to learn about food production and sustainability, but addressing these issues was challenging for teachers and raised a number of questions concerned with effective, equitable and on-going implementation. At a pedagogical level, teachers also reflected on conceptually challenging aspects of food sustainability as a topic for primary school education. The study identified ways that ESD programmes could support schools to think about and implement learning opportunities as well as identifying significant barriers related to resourcing such programmes. Full article
Open AccessArticle Swedish Upper Secondary School Students’ Conceptions of Negative Environmental Impact and Pricing
Sustainability 2013, 5(3), 982-996; doi:10.3390/su5030982
Received: 20 December 2012 / Revised: 4 February 2013 / Accepted: 11 February 2013 / Published: 4 March 2013
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (525 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This study explores relationships between upper secondary school students’ understanding of prices and environmental impacts. The study uses responses from 110 students to problems in which they were asked to explain differences in prices and also to express and justify opinions on what
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This study explores relationships between upper secondary school students’ understanding of prices and environmental impacts. The study uses responses from 110 students to problems in which they were asked to explain differences in prices and also to express and justify opinions on what should be the difference in prices. Very few students expressed an environmental dimension in their understanding of price. A few students suggested that environmental impact influenced price by raising demand for “Environmentally friendly products”. A few students suggested that ‘environmentally friendly products’ had higher prices because they were more costly to produce. We found no examples of students combining both lines of explanation. However, nearly half of the students believed that prices should reflect environmental effects, and this reasoning was divided between cases where the point was justified by a broad environmental motivation and cases where the point was justified in relation to incentives–to get consumers to act in a more environmentally friendly way. Full article

Review

Jump to: Research

Open AccessReview Greening the Ivory Tower: A Review of Educational Research on Sustainability in Post-Secondary Education
Sustainability 2013, 5(5), 2252-2271; doi:10.3390/su5052252
Received: 30 March 2013 / Revised: 6 May 2013 / Accepted: 15 May 2013 / Published: 21 May 2013
Cited by 12 | PDF Full-text (701 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
There is a deficit of multi-site studies examining the integration of sustainability in the policies and practices of post-secondary institutions. This paper reviews what comparative empirical research has been undertaken on sustainability in post-secondary education (PSE) within eight leading international journals publishing on
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There is a deficit of multi-site studies examining the integration of sustainability in the policies and practices of post-secondary institutions. This paper reviews what comparative empirical research has been undertaken on sustainability in post-secondary education (PSE) within eight leading international journals publishing on sustainability and education. Three predominant themes of research on the topic are identified within the review: research comparing sustainability curricula across institutions (both within specific disciplines of study and across disciplines); research comparing campus operations policies and practice across multiple institutions; and research on how to best measure or audit approaches and outputs in sustainability in PSE. This review of the research literature supports the contention within the literature on sustainability in PSE that most research on the topic is focused on case studies rather than comparison of multiple institutions. The comparative research that is emerging from the field is concentrated on assessing measurable outputs for environmental externalities within institutional operations, with little examination of sustainability uptake and outcomes across broader institutional policies and practices. Full article

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