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MA Education for a Sustainable Environment

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Community and Policy in Sustainability Education

Course unit fact file
Unit code EDUC71321
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The course unit begins with a sharing of the participants’ experiences of engagement in communities and policies relevant to sustainability that might be linked to the content and pedagogy of this course. It develops four themes, in each of which we will address conceptualisations and theory, case studies/evaluation/action research methodologies, and practical activism. The four themes are:

  • The contradictions between traditional, indigenous, and community/everyday experience/knowledge and scientific/academic/disciplinary knowledge.
  • Inclusive communities for socio-environmental change.
  • Globalisation of local communities’ social movements, activism, and learning.
  • Informal and formal teacher and leadership education.

Throughout the course participants develop (and/or find their place in and help build) learning communities working to bring about socio-environmental change. Examples include:

  • Working with Teach the Future and other exemplary projects.
  • Citizen science projects
  • Community engaged ecological restoration
  • Transition projects
  • Online social media movements/communities/projects

In the light of relevant concepts, research and experiences, participants work together to reflect on:

  • How they have helped their learning community/ies in achieving their goals.
  • The evolution of their own competences in initiating, building and helping effect socio-ecological change.
  • The understandings and competencies they will take forward into their future sustainability work.

Out of these reflections, participants provide grounded insights into the ways in which learning communities can effectively build capacities for transformative socio-environmental change.


The unit aims to:

  • Explore the ways in which various learning communities can build capacity for transformative socio-environmental change.
  • Explore the nature, dynamics, and importance of learning communities and social learning movements that can bring about transformative socio-environmental change.
  • Encourage participants to read and analyse their own socio-environmental realities and the forces shaping those realities.
  • Envisage and document ways in which learning communities could and do shape those realities.
  • Foster competencies and strategies in initiating and building learning communities, whether locally or internationally.
  • Inspire participants to become change agents, finding their place in learning communities, engaging with policies, and working for transformative change.

Teaching and learning methods

The course unit is conducted in dual-mode including on-campus and remote participants engaging together through interactive technologies.  It employs mini lectures, podcasts, talks/workshops from experienced community members and small group work, alongside activities used in learning community settings (e.g., World Cafes).

The emphasis is on collaborative and active learning, with participants acting as critical friends to colleagues. 

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate conceptual and interdisciplinary understandings of various learning communities and multiple ways of knowing.
  • Demonstrate understandings of the role of communities and movements in influencing policies and bringing about socio-environmental change.
  • Demonstrate understandings of ways of encouraging sustainability in contextually relevant ways.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of particular learning communities and movements, what they are trying to achieve, and the how they are doing so.

Intellectual skills

  • Critically reflect on relevant literature.
  • In interdisciplinary and systemic terms, encapsulate the diverse qualities and dynamics of learning communities and the social, economic, and environmental issues they are addressing.
  • Critically evaluate the values, competencies and strategies needed in developing and supporting the role of learning communities in working towards transformative change.
  • Critically reflect on their own role in developing and supporting learning communities and the qualities they have developed through that process.
  • Critically evaluate whether and how learning communities are successful in building capacities for and bringing about transformative change.


Practical skills

  • Work in interdisciplinary ways and in ways coherent with systems thinking.
  • Read and map socio-environmental realities and envisage learning communities that could respond to those realities.
  • Conduct literature-based research relevant to the academic context and to learning communities and the needs of learning communities.
  • Collaboratively engage with others to effect change using appropriate competencies and strategies.
  • Effectively communicate and disseminate understandings in ways which benefit learning communities.
  • Apply digital communication tools to facilitate the activities of learning communities.

Transferable skills and personal qualities


  • Demonstrate enhanced skills in academic literacies, including critical reflection and communication of understandings.
  • Demonstrate an appreciation of the value of reflection and collaboration in professional practice.
  • Demonstrate capacities to work with, support, and reinforce the work of others.
  • Support decisions and actions that favour socio-environmental transformation.


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%
Oral assessment/presentation 50%

Feedback methods

Feeback will be available via blackboard.

Recommended reading


Andreotti, V. (2011). Actionable Postcolonial Theory in Education. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Bateson, G. (1979). Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity (Vol. 255). New York: Bantam Books.

Capra, F. (1994). Ecology and community. Center for Ecoliteracy, 1-11.

Capra, F. (1996). The Web of Life: A New Synthesis of Mind and Matter. London: Flamingo.

Capra, F., and Jakobsen, O.D. (2017). A conceptual framework for ecological economics based on systemic principles of life. International Journal of Social Economics, 44(6): 831-844.

de Sousa Santos, B. (2009). A non-occidentalist west? Learned ignorance and ecology of knowledge. Theory, Culture & Society, 26(7-8): 103-125.

De Welde, K., Foote, N., Gunnels, C.W., Hozdik, E., Savarese, M., Wohlpart, A.J., and Wohlpart, S.L. (2021). Grounded in place: Strategies for teaching sustainability in cross-cultural learning communities. In K. Leone, S. Komisar, and E.M Everham III (Eds.) Making the Sustainable University (pp. 99-116). Singapore: Springer.

Diaz, S., Settele, J., Brondizio, E.S., Ngo, H.T., Agard, J., Arneth, A., et al. (2019). Pervasive human-driven decline of life on Earth points to the need for transformative change.&nb

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Practical classes & workshops 50
Tutorials 4
Independent study hours
Independent study 74

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Julian Williams Unit coordinator
Sandra Ajaps Unit coordinator

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