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MA Education for a Sustainable Environment

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Approaches to Sustainability Education

Course unit fact file
Unit code EDUC71342
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The importance of teaching and learning approaches in developing the values, literacies and competencies associated with sustainability and transformation, is well recognised.

This unit explores approaches associated with sustainable education and how they can be realized through teaching and learning.



The unit aims to:

  • Explore diverse teaching and learning approaches to sustainable education and the theories informing those approaches.
  • Explore the rationale behind those approaches and how they instantiate understandings of sustainable education and transformative learning.
  • Develop educator competences shaping those approaches. 
  • Foster understandings of, and sensitivities to, the appropriate use of such approaches in different learning contexts.
  • Develop skills in researching, designing, realizing and evaluating approaches in different learning contexts and in partnership with relevant stakeholders.
  • Develop insights into considerations and challenges in realizing such approaches, and strategies for engaging with those challenges.
  • Encourage participants to be creative, critically reflective, collaborative and holistic educators and communicators.<

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 real-world case studies, learning scenarios and simulations drawn from the (first-hand) accounts and experiences of UK and internationally based practitioners.

The course unit uses some of the approaches it explores, including small group and collaborative learning and place-based learning. The emphasis is on knowledge building and collaborative and active learning. All participants are viewed as important contributors and collaborators in building understandings of how to appropriately educate for sustainability. In that spirit, students will be encouraged to contribute their thinking to seminars and relevant (online) communities, including the online community of inquiry space for the programme.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate understandings and knowledge of diverse learning and teaching approaches to sustainability education, the rationale for their use and why they are considered transformative;
  • Demonstrate knowledge of theories and systems thinking and understandings of how it can be instantiated in sustainability teaching and learning approaches

Intellectual skills

  • Critically reflect on relevant literature on teaching and learning.
  • Critically evaluate sustainability education design in a variety of learning and teaching contexts.
  • Critically reflect on their own design, development and collaborative practices in formulating and realizing approaches.
  • Analyse the impact of these approaches for learners and teachers and how they connect to socio-environmental benefits.
  • Recognise potential complexities and constraints in realizing sustainability approaches in context.

Practical skills

  • Research and evaluate sustainability learning and teaching approaches, and their transformative potential.
  • Design and (where possible) realize sustainable teaching and learning approaches in a specific context.
  • Collaborate with other students and various stakeholders in designing and evaluating teaching and learning projects.
  • Effectively communicate and disseminate such approaches to interested people contributing to a rich, publicly available resource.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Practice and value ways of living and relating in the world which are sustainable.
  • Demonstrate enhanced skills in academic literacies including critical reflection and evaluation and academic presentation.
  • Show an appreciation of the value of reflection and collaboration in professional practice.
  • Evidence capacities to encourage and enthuse others in their (sustainability related) endeavours.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 30%
Report 35%
Oral assessment/presentation 35%

Feedback methods

Formative feedback is offered:

At the proposal stage (see below) via tutor, peer and, where possible, expert practitioner feedback via an open poster event and via feedback in a wiki / shared document.

As participants refine their ideas for the ‘demonstration of an activity’ (see below) there will be feedback in Microsoft Teams (or similar) from ‘critical friends’.

Summative feedback is offered via blackboard.

Recommended reading

Backman, M., Pitt, H., Marsden, T., Mehmood, A., and Mathijs, E. (2019). Experiential approaches to sustainability education: Towards learning landscapes. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education. 20 (1):139-156.

Bayley, A. (2018). Posthumanism, decoloniality and re-imagining pedagogy. Parallax24(3): 243-253.

Blanchet-Cohen, N., and Reilly, R.C. (2017). Immigrant children promoting environmental care: enhancing learning, agency and integration through culturally-responsive environmental education. Environmental Education Research23(4): 553-572.

Eilam, E. (2022). Climate change education: the problem with walking away from disciplines. Studies in Science Education58 (2): 1-34.

Henderson, K., and Tilbury, D. (2004). Whole-school approaches to sustainability: An international review of sustainable school programs. Australian Research Institute in Education for Sustainability: Australian Government.

Gruenewald, D.A., and Smith, G.A. (Eds.) (2014). Place-based Education in the Global Age: Local Diversity. New York: Psychology Press.

Gwekwerere, Y. N., & Shumba, O. (2021). A Call for Transformative Learning in Southern Africa: Using Ubuntu Pedagogy to Inspire Sustainability Thinking and Climate Action. In Iyengar, R., & Kwauk, C. (Eds.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Practical classes & workshops 45
Tutorials 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 77

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Gary Motteram Unit coordinator
Susan Brown Unit coordinator
Sandra Ajaps Unit coordinator

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