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Article
Publication date: 26 June 2019

Marie Weiss and Matthias Barth

This paper aims to outline the global research landscape of sustainability curricula implementation processes in higher education. The focus is twofold and investigates…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to outline the global research landscape of sustainability curricula implementation processes in higher education. The focus is twofold and investigates where research that aims at integrating sustainability into the curriculum is happening and how the research area of curriculum change for sustainability is developing.

Design/methodology/approach

A systematic review of peer-reviewed case studies published in English in selected journals and edited volumes between 1990 and 2017 was carried out. Data (n = 270 publications) were analyzed via descriptive statistics and bibliometric analysis.

Findings

The study demonstrates that research on sustainability curricula implementation processes in higher education has produced a growing output in a broad range of journals. Nevertheless, the cross-country distribution is imbalanced, with most cases coming from the USA, Europe and Asia, but with the relatively highest density in Oceania. A citation network analysis revealed that the “Western world” is quite well interlinked, whereas other countries are not, indicating that sharing information between and learning from other cases is limited.

Research limitations/implications

The exclusion of non-English publications likely skewed the global distribution of the research landscape included in this study.

Social implications

These findings demonstrate the need for more research and funding for case studies in countries that have not yet been adequately examined.

Originality/value

This study offers the first systematic reflection on the current global research landscape in sustainability curricula implementation and can guide further research endeavors.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 20 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 29 June 2020

Jorge Gustavo Rodríguez Aboytes and Matthias Barth

This study aims to investigate how transformative learning has been conceptualised and operationalised in education for sustainable development (ESD) and sustainability…

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1215

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to investigate how transformative learning has been conceptualised and operationalised in education for sustainable development (ESD) and sustainability learning and to collect evidence on how to support transformative learning in formal and non-formal environments.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors conducted a systematic literature review to provide a structured and replicable search and analysis of the relevant literature to produce a bibliometric overview that combines a quantitative description of the body of literature and qualitative analysis of the learning processes, outcomes and conditions.

Findings

The convergence between transformative learning and sustainability has become an emerging field of inquiry, despite the superficial use of transformative learning theory in many studies. By examining the learning process, outcomes and conditions in the core sample of studies, this study demonstrates that transformative learning theory – if carefully studied – can contribute to the design and implementation of educational interventions and assessments of learning towards sustainability. Furthermore, the sustainability context provides an empirical grounding that highlights the fact that social learning, the role of experience and the development of sustainability competencies are inherently part of transformative learning.

Originality/value

To date, few attempts have been made to better understand how transformative learning theory has been used in sustainability learning and ESD research. This systematic review allows for a better comprehension of how concepts and mechanisms elucidated in transformative learning theory are operationalised in sustainability learning and ESD research and serves as a source of inspiration for those researchers and practitioners who aims to make sustainability education, teaching and learning more transformative.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 21 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article
Publication date: 26 June 2019

Jan-Ole Brandt, Lina Bürgener, Matthias Barth and Aaron Redman

This paper aims to provide a holistic approach to assessing student teachers’ competence development in education for sustainable development (ESD). This is to provide…

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1110

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to provide a holistic approach to assessing student teachers’ competence development in education for sustainable development (ESD). This is to provide evidence on which teaching and learning formats help to foster which aspects of ESD-specific professional action competence in teachers. The studied competencies consist of content knowledge (CK), pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) and the willingness to actively support and implement ESD.

Design/methodology/approach

A multiple case study design was used on two sequential modules of a university’s teacher education program. A mixed-methods approach was applied that combined surveys, videotaped and PhotoVoice-supported focus groups, as well as pre- and post-assessment tools. Qualitative data analysis was based on the coding paradigm of the qualitative content analysis, whereas quantitative data were interpreted by means of descriptive statistics and paired sample t-tests.

Findings

The results from this study clearly indicate that the two courses contributed to a shift in students’ non-cognitive dispositions. The study also provides evidence on the students’ competence development and demonstrates how two different learning settings support different dimensions of teachers’ professional action competence in terms of ESD.

Originality/value

The triangulation of data enabled not only a mere competence assessment but also deeper insights into learning processes, as well as into the drivers of and barriers to competence development. Furthermore, the study introduces an innovative approach to assessing the development of PCK.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 20 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 2 December 2019

Theres Konrad, Arnim Wiek and Matthias Barth

Advanced skills in communication, teamwork and stakeholder engagement are widely recognized as important success factors for advancing sustainability. While project-based…

Abstract

Purpose

Advanced skills in communication, teamwork and stakeholder engagement are widely recognized as important success factors for advancing sustainability. While project-based learning formats claim to advance such skills, there is little empirical evidence that demonstrates how interpersonal competence is being developed. This study aims to describe and explains teaching and learning processes of project-based sustainability courses that contribute to the development of interpersonal competence as one of the key competencies in sustainability.

Design/methodology/approach

This study on an international project-based learning course adopted a multi-method case study approach, triangulating observations, semi-structured interviews and focus groups supported by Photovoice method through which students tracked their learning processes. Data collection and analysis followed a grounded theory approach.

Findings

Learning through and from conflicts within a learning community can foster competence development in teamwork, communication and stakeholder engagement. This study identified inner and outer conflicts (within individuals versus between individuals or groups) as potential drivers of learning processes, depending on strategies applied to address these conflicts.

Originality value

The value of this study is fourfold: it demonstrates how conflicts can be leveraged for students’ competence development; it provides in-depth empirical data from multiple perspectives, it discusses the findings in the context of teaching and learning theories, and it demonstrates an application of the Photovoice method to track and improve teaching and learning processes.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 21 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article
Publication date: 8 January 2021

Theres Konrad, Arnim Wiek and Matthias Barth

For professional sustainability work, graduates need to be able to work in teams and collaborate with stakeholders; in other words, they need to have developed…

Abstract

Purpose

For professional sustainability work, graduates need to be able to work in teams and collaborate with stakeholders; in other words, they need to have developed interpersonal competence. There is growing evidence that project-based sustainability courses facilitate interpersonal competence development. However, research so far has focused on single case studies and on assessing learning outcomes. The purpose of this study is to deepen the understanding of how graduate students learn interpersonal competence in project-based sustainability courses.

Design/methodology/approach

This study adopts a multi-case study approach triangulating observations, semi-structured interviews and focus groups supported by Photovoice method. A comparison of three project-based sustainability courses in graduate programs at universities in the USA, Germany, Switzerland and Spain is conducted to gain generalizable insights on how interpersonal competence can be developed through project-based sustainability courses.

Findings

Receiving inputs, experiencing, reflecting and experimenting are four learning processes supportive of interpersonal competence development. Interpersonal attitudes seem to be mostly learned through a combination of experiencing and reflecting, followed by experimenting; not surprisingly, interpersonal knowledge is mostly developed through a combination of receiving inputs, experiencing and (collective) reflection; and interpersonal skills seem to be mostly learned through a combination of receiving inputs and experimenting, or, more directly, experiencing and experimenting.

Practical implications

These findings support the unique learning opportunities offered through project-based sustainability courses and can help instructors to better facilitate students’ development of interpersonal competence.

Originality/value

The value of this study is three-fold: (i) it provides a comprehensive picture of interpersonal competence, including attitudes, knowledge, and skills; (ii) it spells out specific teaching and learning processes; and (iii) it links these to specific interpersonal competence facets and components.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 22 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

Keywords

Content available
Article
Publication date: 4 October 2021

Katrin Kohl, Charles Hopkins, Matthias Barth, Gerd Michelsen, Jana Dlouhá, Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, Zainal Abidin Bin Sanusi and Isabel Toman

Higher education and its leadership are not yet using their potential impact for a sustainable future. This paper aims to focus on UN developments and the long history of…

Abstract

Purpose

Higher education and its leadership are not yet using their potential impact for a sustainable future. This paper aims to focus on UN developments and the long history of university involvement in sustainability might create more interest and understanding that sustainably oriented universities are actually possible and a much stronger role for higher education is needed when nations are discussing their future.

Design/methodology/approach

Literature review with a focus on international treaties and declarations on the UN level and international university networks, literature review of the background and potential of the whole-institution approach and the need/suggestions for further research, also to measure advancement.

Findings

History shows a strong engagement of higher education with sustainability from its beginnings. There have been strong calls/offers from within university networks to take a crucial role in moving towards sustainable development that involves more than teaching about sustainability. The international community calls for higher education to be involved in policymaking rather than simply implementation, have been limited and the full potential of higher education institutions using all opportunities such as being living labs for sustainability has not as yet been realized. Currently, calls for engagement are often still limited to training and providing research when scientific evidence is wanted.

Research limitations/implications

Literature review focused on UN level treaties/declarations English- and German-language review national developments limited to samples of members of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 subcluster in the Higher Education and Research for Sustainable Development (HESD) Global Cluster by the International Association of Universities (IAU).

Practical implications

Guidance for university leaders and other stakeholders to become aware of and consider a whole-institution approach. Practitioner relevance as countries is encouraged to embed UN recommendations, treaties and declarations. Defining opportunities for further research. Presenting the HESD Cluster by the IAU as a sample for new approaches of higher education to interact with the SDGs.

Social implications

Strengthening the role of higher education in the pursuit of a better future would focus on science and research as a neutral basis for decision-making and policy development. Sustainability embedded in all streams of university can help universities to be a practical example of the possibilities of sustainability at work.

Originality/value

Composition of authors with UN background and involvement. Focus on UN treaties/declarations and guidance for academics and practitioners in leadership on adopted UN and other international documents. Summarizing the background of the whole-institution approach as a genuine development over time but including limitations and implications for future roles for higher education leadership. IAU SDG 4 Subcluster is unique in its own approach and with its connections to a global network of higher education institutions and UNESCO.

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: 5 April 2013

Matthias Barth

The purpose of this paper is to comparatively analyse activities to integrate sustainability in teaching, research and operational practice in different higher education…

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2286

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to comparatively analyse activities to integrate sustainability in teaching, research and operational practice in different higher education institutions, which differ both in the degree of how far implementation goes and in regards to the most active stakeholders. Against that background, the paper explores, in a process‐oriented focus, which drivers and barriers are experienced as most important and how they relate to each other.

Design/methodology/approach

A comparative multi‐case study has been conducted, with two main steps to structure the research process: first, desktop research was used to select appropriate cases in a theoretical sampling. Second, data from interviews with relevant stakeholders in each case were analysed according to the constant comparison method.

Findings

Across all cases, three distinctive patterns of implementation processes emerged, each of them with a unique set of influencing factors. For each pattern, drivers and barriers, as well as their relevance, are experienced differently and specific key constructs can be found to explain the implementation process.

Research limitations/implications

The research focused on German institutions of higher educations and all cases are drawn from that population, which might limit the generalizability.

Practical implications

It is hoped to provide valuable insights for future implementation processes and for various ways to support a sustainable transition in higher education.

Originality/value

This is one of the first papers to consider the process of implementation and the interaction between drivers and barriers. The value of the paper lies in its potential to help in understanding what role different drivers and barriers play in different patterns of implementation.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 14 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article
Publication date: 25 September 2007

Matthias Barth, Jasmin Godemann, Marco Rieckmann and Ute Stoltenberg

To date, little attention has been given to the circumstances in which the process of developing key competencies for sustainable development may take place. The purpose…

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12622

Abstract

Purpose

To date, little attention has been given to the circumstances in which the process of developing key competencies for sustainable development may take place. The purpose of this paper is to consider, the possibilities both of formal and informal learning and their relationship to competence development within higher education.

Design/methodology/approach

An explorative, qualitative study based on focus groups was designed using different groups from formal and informal learning settings.

Findings

The development of key competencies is based both on cognitive and non‐cognitive dispositions and asks for multiple contexts. Through combining formal and informal learning settings within higher education – as part of a new learning culture – a variety of contexts can be given and competence development can be enhanced.

Research limitations/implications

While aspects of both formal and informal learning settings could be identified, the interdependencies between them remain elusive.

Practical implications

Based on the findings, some main aspects for acquiring competencies can be pointed out that may be crucial in higher education settings.

Originality/value

The paper analyses the implications for both formal and informal learning settings of new ways of developing key competencies within higher education. Particular attention is given to interdisciplinarity and students' self‐responsibility.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 8 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

Keywords

Content available
Article
Publication date: 5 May 2015

Walter Leal Filho

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120

Abstract

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 16 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

Content available
Article
Publication date: 25 September 2007

Maik Adomssent, Jasmin Godemann and Gerd Michelsen

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348

Abstract

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 8 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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