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

Article


Howlett, Cathy, Ferreira, Jo-Anne and Blomfield, Jessica. 2016. "Teaching sustainable development in higher education: Building critical, reflective thinkers through an interdisciplinary approach." International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education. 17 (3), pp. 305-321. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-07-2014-0102
Article Title

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

ERA Journal ID20374
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsHowlett, Cathy (Author), Ferreira, Jo-Anne (Author) and Blomfield, Jessica (Author)
Journal TitleInternational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Journal Citation17 (3), pp. 305-321
Number of Pages17
Year2016
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
ISSN1467-6370
1758-6739
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-07-2014-0102
Web Address (URL)https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/IJSHE-07-2014-0102/full/html
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.

KeywordsCritical thinking, Higher education, Sustainability education, Interdisciplinary approach, Reflective thinking
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390102. Curriculum and pedagogy theory and development
390303. Higher education
Byline AffiliationsGriffith University
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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