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Pedagogical content knowledge of sustainability: A missing piece in the puzzle of professional development of educators in higher education for sustainable development

Mandy Singer-Brodowski (Institut Futur, Free University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 4 September 2017

Abstract

Purpose

This paper’s purpose is to describe students’ learning processes in a project-based and self-organized seminar on sustainability. A detailed knowledge of typical learning processes is part of a pedagogical content knowledge of sustainability and can therefore contribute to the professional development of university educators.

Design/methodology/approach

In a project-based and self-organized seminar, a case study has been conducted with the grounded theory’s methodological approach. Data were collected from student interviews, group discussions and observations of students’ planning and organization meetings.

Findings

The results of the case study show that students’ learning processes vary depending on their pre-seminar sustainability experiences. Two types have been established: sustainability newcomers and sustainability experts. Furthermore, the results indicate the importance of emotions in the involvement with sustainability.

Research limitations/implications

The significance of the case study is limited by a small number of cases. Also, the results are specific for a seminar self-organized by the students and can therefore not simply be transferred to other seminars.

Practical implications

Knowledge of specific learning processes and a possible conceptual change in sustainability classes could be an important issue in the professional development of university educators because it would increase the educators’ pedagogical content knowledge.

Originality/value

The triangulation of qualitative data mainly served the investigation of students’ perspectives and therefore the understanding of subjective preferences, experiences and learning processes in the field of higher education for sustainable development (HESD).

Keywords

Citation

Singer-Brodowski, M. (2017), "Pedagogical content knowledge of sustainability: A missing piece in the puzzle of professional development of educators in higher education for sustainable development", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 18 No. 6, pp. 841-856. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-02-2016-0035

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited