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A collaborative action research project towards embedding ESD within the higher education curriculum

Gisela Cebrián (Faculty of Education, Universidad Camilo José Cela, Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 4 September 2017




This paper aims to present a collaborative action research project conducted at the University of Southampton with the aim to promote curriculum and professional development in education for sustainable development (ESD) and learn from everyday practices of academics.


An action research approach guided by participatory and emancipatory approaches was used. An interdisciplinary group of five academic staff members from different subject areas (education; archaeology; electronics and computer sciences; biology; and health sciences) was created with the aim to support the group’s critical reflection and action towards embedding ESD in their teaching practice.


The main outcomes of delivery of sustainability teaching achieved through the project and evidences of the impact of the facilitator role are outlined. The facilitator role has enabled reflection and action, together with the identification of specific needs of academics and the factors influencing their engagement and action.


This research demonstrates the potential of using action research to rethink current practice in embedding ESD and to lead to new practices and actions of communities of practice. The facilitator role and second-order action research can contribute to better decision-making of sustainability as it questions practice, current assumptions and worldviews.



Cebrián, G. (2017), "A collaborative action research project towards embedding ESD within the higher education curriculum", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 18 No. 6, pp. 857-876.



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