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

Cathy Howlett (Griffith School of Environment, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland, Australia)
Jo-Anne Ferreira (Griffith School of Environment, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland, Australia)
Jessica Blomfield (Griffith Business School, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland, Australia)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 3 May 2016

3777

Abstract

Purpose

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.

Design/methodology/approach

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.

Findings

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

Originality/value

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

Keywords

Citation

Howlett, C., Ferreira, J.-A. and Blomfield, J. (2016), "Teaching sustainable development in higher education: Building critical, reflective thinkers through an interdisciplinary approach", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 305-321. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-07-2014-0102

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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