University of Tasmania

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Impactful education for sustainability through research and a community of practice

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 21:22 authored by Emily FliesEmily Flies, Graham WoodGraham Wood, Penelope JonesPenelope Jones
For humanity to persist, we need populations with sustainability knowledge and practices. Higher education has the potential to contribute but there are many barriers preventing higher education actors from reaching their full sustainability education potential. Two such barriers are the shift to online teaching delivery, which hinders the application of experiential learning pedagogies, and institutional barriers for the type of interdisciplinary teaching and learning required in sustainability education. Here we introduce the case study of the emerging Education for Sustainability program at the University of Tasmania which includes an online diploma and a blended-delivery major in the BSc. The Diploma of Sustainable Living has been running since 2018 and aims to help students learn about sustainability through a practical, applied approach which links participants’ lived experience as an individual, consumer and citizen with learning through the Sustainable Development Goals. We present two online units in the diploma, Backyard Biodiversity and Living with Fire, and explain their curriculum design using Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory cycles of learning (Kolb, 2014). Both units aim to stimulate pro-environmental attitudes and sustainability behaviours through personally relevant, experiential learning. We present a research program designed to measure the impact these units are having on student attitudes and behaviours including the theory (i.e., Theory of Planned Behaviour (Ajzen, 1991) and evidence to support the impacts that authentic experiential learning (even online-facilitated learning) can have on student sustainability attitudes and actions. We will next introduce a new (2022 start) major in sustainability in the BSc. This interdisciplinary program has been co-developed with an Education for Sustainability community of practice. We highlight some of the challenges faced in creating these initiatives (e.g. disciplinary contestation, institutional inertia; Gale, et al. 2015) and the role of a community of practice in overcoming those challenges. We hope that this presentation will contribute an example of successful online curriculum design to foster sustainability behaviour change. And that the examples of initiatives and processes we discuss facilitate the development of education for sustainability initiatives elsewhere in higher education.


Publication title

Australian Association for Sustainability in Higher Education


School of Natural Sciences

Event title

Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education

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Date of Event (End Date)


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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Higher education; Health status (incl. wellbeing); Environmentally sustainable information and communication services not elsewhere classified

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