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Sustainability champions? Academic identities and sustainability curricula in higher education

Bronwyn E. Wood (Faculty of Education, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)
Sue Cornforth (Faculty of Education, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)
Fiona Beals (School of Health and Social Services, Te Hau Tapu me te Puna Oranga, Wellington Institute of Technology, Wellington, New Zealand)
Mike Taylor (Faculty of Education, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)
Rachel Tallon (Faculty of Education, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 3 May 2016

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the experiences of academic staff who are committed to embedding sustainability within tertiary curricula and pedagogy.

Design/methodology/approach

The focus of this paper is on a New Zealand university. A survey of staff was undertaken and in-depth interviews conducted with 11 sustainability “champions”. A narrative variant of thematic analysis was used to examine the ways these sustainability “champions” made sense of the work they do. Through an analysis of their metaphors and metaphorical language, a sense of the identities that they held as educators of sustainability was gained.

Findings

Three types of identities emerged – the sustainability “saviour”, “nurturer” and “struggler”. These identities reflected the champion’s experiences, disciplinary affiliations and pedagogical approaches. Interdisciplinarity emerged as a key tenet and challenge for such sustainability champions.

Originality/value

This paper provides rare insights into the experiences, identities and teaching approaches of sustainability champions within higher education. It highlights the need for university-wide conversations and cross-discipline support for such academics.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful for the funding for this project from the Victoria University of Wellington, University Grants Fund, Grant number: 200596. The authors wish to express their thanks to all the participants in this survey and, in particular, the 11 sustainability “champions” who gave generously of their time and ideas.

Citation

Wood, B.E., Cornforth, S., Beals, F., Taylor, M. and Tallon, R. (2016), "Sustainability champions? Academic identities and sustainability curricula in higher education", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 342-360. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-12-2014-0171

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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