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Article
Publication date: 19 September 2021

YuYing Zhang and Peng Wang

Although several researchers have statistically analyzed references associated with education for sustainable development based on the co-citation frequency, evolutionary…

Abstract

Purpose

Although several researchers have statistically analyzed references associated with education for sustainable development based on the co-citation frequency, evolutionary analysis based on high-citation references omits literature with low citation frequency, which has a significant impact on the evolution of a discipline. The purpose of this study is to understand and explore the historical processes and roots of the field of education for sustainable development and to understand the theoretical grounding of the field.

Design/methodology/approach

Based on education for sustainable development publications in the science citation index expanded and social sciences citation index databases from 1992 to August 2020, a new bibliometric method, reference publication year spectroscopy, was adopted to conduct a bibliometric analysis of the 58,588 cited references in 1,778 publications.

Findings

The earliest reference in the field of education for sustainable development traces back to 1732. There were 21 peaks in this field between 1732 and August 2020. Dewey’s “new three-center theory”"; Bloom’s “taxonomy”; Freire’s “conscientization theory”; the “theory of planned behavior”; Kolb’s “experiential learning theory”; Wittgenstein’s theoretical concepts of “language-games,” “forms of life” and “rule-following” and Leopold’s “land ethics” laid an early theoretical grounding of educational philosophy and environmental ethics for research into education for sustainable development. The new environmental paradigm and the new ecological paradigm have become the most widely used methodological tools for understanding the values and attitudes of people toward the natural environment. Among the 50 most cited references, Lozano and Wals have published the most publications, contributing to promoting the development of research into education for sustainable development. The Journal of Cleaner Production, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education and Environmental Education Research have published the most publications related to the field of education for sustainable development.

Originality/value

The findings of this study are helpful for scholars and practitioners to understand the academic ideological roots, theoretical grounding and important influential literature in the field of education for sustainable development.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article
Publication date: 9 August 2021

Pedro Mauricio Acosta Castellanos and Araceli Queiruga-Dios

In education concerning environmental issues, there are two predominant currents in the world, environmental education (EE) and education for sustainable development…

Abstract

Purpose

In education concerning environmental issues, there are two predominant currents in the world, environmental education (EE) and education for sustainable development (ESD). ESD is the formal commitment and therefore promoted by the United Nations, to ensure that countries achieve sustainable development. In contrast, EE was the first educational trend with an environmental protection approach. The purpose of this systematic review that seeks to show whether the migration from EE to ESD is being effective and welcomed by researchers and especially by universities is presented. With the above, a global panorama can be provided, where the regions that choose each model can be identified. In the same sense, it was sought to determine which of the two currents is more accepted within engineering education.

Design/methodology/approach

The review followed the preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyzes parameters for systematic reviews. In total, 198 papers indexed in Scopus, Science Direct, ERIC and Scielo were analyzed. With the results, the advancement of ESD and the state of the EE by regions in the world were identified.

Findings

It was possible to categorize the geographical regions that host either of the two EE or ESD currents. It is important to note that ESD has gained more strength from the decade of ESD proposed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. For its part, EE has greater historical roots in some regions of the planet. In turn, there is evidence of a limited number of publications on the design and revision of study plans in engineering.

Originality/value

Through this systematic literature review, the regions of the world that are clinging to EE and those that have taken the path of ESD could be distinguished. Moreover, specific cases in engineering where ESD has been involved were noted.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article
Publication date: 1 June 2004

Kristina von Oelreich

Aims to describe how the concept of sustainable development, with a focus on the ecological dimension, can be applied practically in an institution for higher education and

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787

Abstract

Aims to describe how the concept of sustainable development, with a focus on the ecological dimension, can be applied practically in an institution for higher education and research. The institution used as an example is Mälardalen University in Västerås, Sweden. Encompasses literature studies and conclusions from practical experience in implementing and maintaining the environmental management system at Mälardalen University. Begins with a review of the concept of sustainable development based on the report “Our common future”, presented by the Commission on Environment and Development in 1987. Then briefly summarises “Agenda 21”, the document from the Rio conference in 1992. Then describes the sector principle, which has been adopted in Sweden by its Riksdag (the Swedish parliament) and government. Then reviews European, regional, and national strategies for a sustainable development within the bounds of higher education and research, followed by a report of the University's work to translate these strategies into practice. The report describes the University's work to integrate the environmental management system within the bounds of training and research and daily operations.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 5 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article
Publication date: 5 September 2016

Yen-Chun Jim Wu and Ju-Peng Shen

This study aims to provide a complete understanding of academic research into higher education for sustainable development (HESD).

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2517

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to provide a complete understanding of academic research into higher education for sustainable development (HESD).

Design/methodology/approach

This study utilizes a systematic review of four scientific literature databases to outline topics of research during the UN’s Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD).

Findings

This study compares research trends and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO’s) strategic perspectives, worldwide topics and the number of studies. The results show that the research trends did not match UNESCO’s perspectives well and that researchers’ focus on popular events led to the variation between the numbers of articles each year. In summary, the findings indicate that most researchers base their topics on environmental issues, and research trends indicate the need for the integration of HESD.

Practical implications

This study provides a systematic review of higher education for academic research into sustainability, and it has implications for researchers and educators by identifying the gaps between the research conducted and the UN’s policies during the DESD.

Originality/value

This study attempts to offer an integrated view of HESD and to understand the bias of research trends during the DESD.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 17 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article
Publication date: 2 May 2017

Miguel Pardellas Santiago, Pablo Meira Cartea and Lucía Iglesias da Cunha

This paper deals with the experiences of three European universities that have implemented transition initiatives, using the Transition Network’s methodology to promote…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper deals with the experiences of three European universities that have implemented transition initiatives, using the Transition Network’s methodology to promote their sustainability plans. The Transition Communities’ model for change is presented from a socio-educational perspective as an effective methodology for encouraging university environmental sustainability processes. In this context, the purpose of this paper was to analyze Transition Communities at universities using an environmental–educational approach in three different scenarios: the Universidade de Santiago de Compostela (USC), the University of Edinburgh (UEd) and the Universidade do Minho (UMinho).

Design/methodology/approach

The authors engaged in a comparative analysis of multiple case studies in the Transition “phenomenon”, looking for convergences and divergences among them.

Findings

The comparative analysis revealed three very different scenarios, which ironically shared an absence of explicit theoretical–methodological references in the design, execution and evaluation of the educational actions that were implemented. Examination of the impact and continuity of these initiatives uncovered the existence of a “glass ceiling” in university environmental sustainability strategies. Even the innovative Transition methodology was unable to subvert the established academic, corporate, organizational and cultural structures and dynamics that perpetuate unsustainability.

Originality/value

This study was carried out from an innovative perspective with few precedents in the Transition context. The authors’ educational–environmental approach provides insight for articulating educational strategies for environmental sustainability at universities and for constructing a Transition model for education.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 18 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article
Publication date: 2 September 2021

Alberto Bertossi and Francesco Marangon

Changing the present behavior of individuals toward a more sustainable lifestyle is a complex task requiring a well-established strategy and institutional commitment. The…

Abstract

Purpose

Changing the present behavior of individuals toward a more sustainable lifestyle is a complex task requiring a well-established strategy and institutional commitment. The purpose of this paper is to understand the strategic steps, as proposed by Steg and Vlek (2009), that has been mostly focused on by higher education institutions (HEIs) in the past decade (2010–2020) to foster pro-environmental behavior (PEB) of students.

Design/methodology/approach

A literature review was conducted following the approach given by Denyer and Tranfield (2009). Subsequently, the results of 147 articles from 22 journals were discussed using the seven-element system proposed by Lozano et al. (2013).

Findings

In the past decade, HEIs have increased their efforts to improve their understanding of the determinants of PEB of students and methods to foster PEB. However, the results indicated that the classification was similar to previous studies, with HEIs focused mainly on assessing students in terms of personal factors (assessment and reporting category), understanding the relationships among psychological determinants and their influence on student behavior (research category) and planning educational interventions (education category).

Originality/value

This is the first study that reviewed the role of HEIs in fostering PEBs of students using the approach proposed by Lozano et al. (2013) as a theoretical framework and the strategy proposed by Steg and Vlek (2009) as a guideline.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 4 January 2016

Philip Vaughter, Marcia McKenzie, Lauri Lidstone and Tarah Wright

This paper aims to provide an overview of a content analysis of sustainability policies from Canadian post-secondary education institutions. The paper reports findings on…

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2289

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to provide an overview of a content analysis of sustainability policies from Canadian post-secondary education institutions. The paper reports findings on the orientations to sustainability evident in the policies; references to other policies within the documents; and other key themes on how sustainability is engaged in the policies in relation to overall governance, education, operations, research and community outreach.

Design/methodology/approach

A sample of 50 Canadian colleges and universities was selected based on representativeness across a range of criteria. A qualitative thematic content analysis of these policies was conducted using a collaborative coding approach.

Findings

Results suggest that most sustainability policies described a Brundtland (i.e. intergenerational) and/or three-pillar (e.g. economic, environmental and social) orientation to sustainability. Many sustainability policies also connected to other external municipal or provincial policies. In terms of various domains of sustainability, campus operations was discussed by all of the policies and in the most detail, while discussions of sustainability in education (i.e. the curriculum) and in research were vague, and discussions of sustainability in relation to community outreach were included less frequently.

Originality/value

This comparative study provides a broad view of sustainability policies from post-secondary institutions across Canada. It deepens our understanding of the institutions’ conceptualizations of, and priorities for, sustainability. This paper has practical implications for institutions seeking to create or further develop their own policies, and it contributes to the comparative scholarly literature on the institutionalization of sustainability in higher education.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 17 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

Keywords

Content available
Article
Publication date: 6 February 2017

Tamara Savelyeva and William Douglas

This paper aims to provide data on the self-perceived state of sustainability consciousness of first-year Hong Kong students.

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5895

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to provide data on the self-perceived state of sustainability consciousness of first-year Hong Kong students.

Design/methodology/approach

Within a mixed-method research design framework, the authors conducted 787 questionnaires and collected 989 reflective narratives of first-year students of a university in Hong Kong, who were enrolled in the General Education course.

Findings

Attributed to students’ immersion in compulsory sustainability education modules within liberal studies programs in secondary through higher education (HE), the quantitative results revealed an increase in the self-perceived knowledge and behavioral aspects of sustainability consciousness of Hong Kong students and their low engagement in sustainability-related civic, campus or action groups. However, qualitative results revealed three aspects of the students’ sustainability consciousness: intentionality to make a difference; engagement with complex questions about identity, society and nature; and eschatological perspectives, which included imaginative, future-oriented and action-oriented approaches to critical reflection, supported by the rhetoric of hope, promises and commitment for better future.

Originality/value

The study provides insights into the challenge of implementation of the United Nations-based sustainable development model in the Hong Kong educational system through the formal liberal studies curriculum. It advances the field by constructing a momentum for conceptual changes in sustainability education research toward design of the non-linear and culturally sensitive frameworks for sustainability implementation in HE. This allows to utilize universities’ unique capacities for fostering students’ sustainability consciousness in a continuous and systemic way.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 18 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article
Publication date: 5 September 2016

Jeffrey M. Widener, Travis Gliedt and Ashlee Tziganuk

This study aims to understand if geographers, who teach in a new sustainability program, are conveying new knowledge, understanding, skills and competence about the…

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1270

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to understand if geographers, who teach in a new sustainability program, are conveying new knowledge, understanding, skills and competence about the integrated and holistic concept of “sustainability”, rather than individual human-environmental issues to the students. In other words, are geography professors creating effective sustainability courses in a department with a rich history in geography education?

Design/methodology/approach

This study utilizes the McKeown–Ice and Dendinger comprehensive assessment tool for sustainability teaching to examine how geographers teach sustainability from an integrated and holistic perspective. Surveys with students are used to evaluate and compare how effective three geography courses were at teaching sustainability.

Findings

The results suggest that each course was effective in teaching students the main concepts of sustainability. There were, however, differences in teaching practical solutions to achieve sustainability and in the coverage of the causes of sustainability problems. Geographers might consider altering their curriculum or pedagogy to build stronger interdisciplinary linkages to teach the integrated concepts of sustainability rather than its individual parts.

Research limitations/implications

This initial study focuses on one research university in the USA. Its proof of concept will be expanded to evaluate international sustainability education programs nested in existing departments and degree programs.

Originality/value

Sustainability education programs are being created across the globe and are often attached to existing degree programs exhibiting components of sustainability. How effective are they in teaching this interdisciplinary concept? This study validates a framework for assessing sustainability teaching and learning. It recommends changes to enhance the ability for integrated sustainability education programs to comprehensively teach sustainability.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 17 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article
Publication date: 1 April 2014

Helen Kopnina and Frans Meijers

This article aims to explore the challenges posed by the conceptual framework and diversity of practice of education for sustainable development (ESD). The implications of…

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4286

Abstract

Purpose

This article aims to explore the challenges posed by the conceptual framework and diversity of practice of education for sustainable development (ESD). The implications of plurality of ESD perspectives and methodological approaches as well variations in ESD practice will be addressed. Critical framework for conceptualizing of ESD which takes environmental ethics into account will be proposed through the discussion of The Ecocentric and Anthropocentric Attitudes Toward the Sustainable Development (EAATSD) scale.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper opted for a general review approach, covering literature that provides an overview of the concepts and practices of ESD, as well as program evaluation studies. Additionally, qualitative evaluation of EAATSD scale with students of higher professional education was conducted, using in-depth interviews and dialogue with individual students as well as classroom discussions.

Findings

It was found that there are wide and inconclusive debates about the aims of ESD based on the critique of sustainable development discourse in general and instrumentalism embedded in ESD in particular. According to the qualitative evaluation, EAATSD scale can be used for testing anthropocentric and Ecocentric Attitudes Towards Sustainable Development in students of higher education. Based on these results, this scale was found to be revealing of the critical view of paradoxes and challenges inherent in multiple goals of sustainable development as well as useful for testing anthropocentric and ecocentric attitudes in students of higher education.

Research limitations/implications

Reliability of the scale needs further statistical testing, and as is the case in conventional EE/ESD evaluations, and consequent research is necessary to improve institutional, national, and international applicability to particular cases. Future research should draw from this critical review in order to devise alternative evaluation tools.

Practical implications

In practice, this implies that currently administered evaluations of generic ESD, while useful in concrete cultural or institutional settings, might be premature. The article concludes with the reflection upon which conceptual, methodological, cultural, and ethical challenges of ESD which should be useful for ESD researchers and practitioners in different national settings.

Originality/value

This article fulfills an identified need to address the paradoxes of sustainable development and to study how ESD can be more effective.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 15 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

Keywords

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