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Work-based learning as a catalyst for sustainability: a review and prospects

Tony Wall (International Thriving at Work Research Group, University of Chester, Chester, UK)
Ann Hindley (International Thriving at Work Research Group, University of Chester, Chester, UK)
Tamara Hunt (Sustainability Unit, Estates & Facilities, University of Chester, Chester, UK)
Jeremy Peach (Centre for Work Related Studies, University of Chester, Chester, UK)
Martin Preston (University of Chester, Chester, UK)
Courtney Hartley (University of Chester, Chester, UK)
Amy Fairbank (University of Chester, Chester, UK)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 8 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is to highlight the continuing dearth of scholarship about the role of work-based learning in education for sustainable development, and particularly the urgent demands of climate literacy. It is proposed that forms of work-based learning can act as catalysts for wider cultural change, towards embedding climate literacy in higher education institutions.


This paper draws data from action research to present a case study of a Climate Change Project conducted through a work-based learning module at a mid-sized university in the UK.


Contrary to the predominantly fragmented and disciplinary bounded approaches to sustainability and climate literacy, the case study demonstrates how a form of work-based learning can create a unifying vision for action, and do so across multiple disciplinary, professional service, and identity boundaries. In addition, the project-generated indicators of cultural change including extensive faculty-level climate change resources, creative ideas for an innovative mobile application, and new infrastructural arrangements to further develop practice and research in climate change.

Practical implications

This paper provides an illustrative example of how a pan-faculty work-based learning module can act as a catalyst for change at a higher education institution.


This paper is a contemporary call for action to stimulate and expedite climate literacy in higher education, and is the first to propose that certain forms of work-based learning curricula can be a route to combating highly bounded and fragmented approaches, towards a unified and boundary-crossing approach.



Wall, T., Hindley, A., Hunt, T., Peach, J., Preston, M., Hartley, C. and Fairbank, A. (2017), "Work-based learning as a catalyst for sustainability: a review and prospects", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp. 211-224.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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