Teaching sustainable development in higher education: Building critical, reflective thinkers through an interdisciplinary approach

Howlett, Cathy and Ferreira, Jo-Anne and Blomfield, Jessica (2016) Teaching sustainable development in higher education: Building critical, reflective thinkers through an interdisciplinary approach. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 17 (3). pp. 305-321. ISSN 1467-6370


This paper aims to argue that substantive changes are required in both curricula and pedagogical practice in higher education institutions to challenge dominant epistemologies and discourses and to unsettle current ways of thinking about, and acting in relation to, the environment. Central to such a shift, it is argued, is the need for higher education curricula to be interdisciplinary and for pedagogical practices to work to build capacities in students for critical and reflective thinking.

In this paper, a case study of our reflections is offered on a subject designed to promote capacities in students for critical and reflective thinking via an interdisciplinary approach. The paper uses data from student reflective essays and student course evaluations to make an argument for the success of this approach.

Genuine transformative learning can occur within a constructivist informed pedagogical approach to teaching for sustainability.

Research limitations/implications
Research implications are that genuine transformation can occur in students’ thinking processes (which the paper argues is critical for effective education in sustainability) with appropriately designed courses in higher education.

Practical implications
More effective environmental actors and thinkers, who can critically engage with the complexity of environmental problems.

Social implications
Social implications include a more effective and socially just higher education for sustainability

The authors know of no other narrative that addresses attempts to educate for sustainability using this approach.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2021 04:51
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2021 01:25
Uncontrolled Keywords: Critical thinking, Higher education, Sustainability education, Interdisciplinary approach, Reflective thinking
Fields of Research (2008): 13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130313 Teacher Education and Professional Development of Educators
13 Education > 1301 Education Systems > 130103 Higher Education
Fields of Research (2020): 39 EDUCATION > 3901 Curriculum and pedagogy > 390102 Curriculum and pedagogy theory and development
39 EDUCATION > 3903 Education systems > 390303 Higher education
Identification Number or DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-07-2014-0102
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/41631

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