Drop-in sessions

Register your interest to attend an individual drop-in session with one of our programme directors for a chance to learn more about this master's at Manchester and ask any questions you have.

Register for a drop-in session

MA Education for a Sustainable Environment

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Planning and Piloting Research Sustainability Education

Course unit fact file
Unit code EDUC71352
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 course unit starts with an introduction to the field of educational research. This includes general educational research, including literature review, survey, case study and introspective research approaches, document analysis, ethnography, and forms of secondary research.

This is followed by an introduction of an ‘education for sustainability’ orientation, including the need to be ethical, purposeful, action and transition/transformation-oriented, and to engage in research that recognises the interconnectivity of local and global contexts and intertwined systems. This culminates in reflection on research approaches such as:

  • participatory research (and the role of participant voices in research)
  • transdisciplinary research
  • practitioner and action research approaches
  • creative and arts-based approaches
  • the role of indigenous epistemic frames and resources in research (including ‘decolonisation’ and challenging ‘normative’ power structures)
  • the local and/or global impact of research
  • the role of reflexivity in research

The participants will also be introduced to a range of tools and technologies to enable researching aspects of ‘education for sustainability’.

Next, the participants engage in a 10-step tutor-supported pilot study experience. The pilot study will engage the participants in planning, designing, implementing and evaluating a small-scale ‘education for sustainability’ research project. In the case that a participant selects to do an empirical dissertation, or to include an empirical element in a two-part dissertation format (subsequent to this unit), the pilot study should anticipate this later dissertation work (in terms of design and methodology, research question, research method and data analysis).

Throughout the 10-step pilot study experience, the participants will undertake guided and independent reading in the research methods literature. This reading will support the participants’ particular pilot study experience, and the later written assignment where they will demonstrate their achievement of the intended learning outcomes.


The aim of this course unit is to support the development of the participants as ethical, purposeful and critical researchers, able to strengthen the role of education in shaping the sustainability of local and global environments and communities. In terms of action, the course unit engages the participants in piloting and reflection on educational research approaches and methods appropriate for exploring an area of ‘education for sustainability’ and for informing their later dissertation plan and research.

Teaching and learning methods

This course unit is taught in dual-mode, including on-campus and remote participants interacting during class time using interactive technologies.

The learning and teaching processes includes initial lecture-type input, followed by interactive tasks, guided reading, participant-led discussions, interactive presentations, hands-on sessions with various tools, technologies and research steps, and tutor-supported research experience and academic writing.

Knowledge and understanding


  • Show awareness of the local and/or global impact of ‘education for sustainability’ research.
  • Critical understanding of research outcomes in the light of ‘education for sustainability’ and a subsequent dissertation study.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the ethics, purpose and local/global impact of particular educational research approaches.

Intellectual skills

  • Demonstrate an ethical, purposeful, and critical approach to ‘education for sustainability’ research.
  • Demonstrate a critical approach to policy, data and problem analysis.
  • Show awareness of the complex interconnectivity of systems and intertwined challenges underlying educating for sustainability research.

Practical skills

  • Draw on conceptual understanding of educational research to plan, design, implement a small-scale pilot study.
  • Make ethical and purposeful use of technology in research.
  • Present a transparent, credible and concise research report.
  • Tailor the dissemination of research findings to particular audiences.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Show awareness of the value of reflection and reflexivity.
  • Demonstrate autonomy and meta-cognitive strategies with regard to researcher and study skills, as well as further researcher and professional development.
  • Demonstrate communication strategies using digital and non-digital media.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Feedback methods

There are two points at which the participants will receive formative assessment, from their peers and their tutors:

  1. After submission of a plan for their pilot study, detailing the rationale for the research, the research question, the data gathering method and anticipated outcomes.
  2. During a poster presentation session, where the participants present on their small-scale pilot study. The presentation needs to be purposefully tailored to a particular audience (as specified by the participant). This presentation will take place towards the end of the semester, but before the participants final assignment is due.

Recommended reading

Aikens, K., McKenzie, M., & Vaughter, P. (2016). Environmental and sustainability education policy research: A systematic review of methodological and thematic trends. Environmental Education Research, 22(3): 333-359.

AlAbbasi, D., & Stelma, J. (2018, May). Using Ketso in qualitative research with female Saudi teachers. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, (Vol. 19, No. 2). Available from: https://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/2930

Argyrous, G. (1997). Statistics for Social Research. Houndsmills: MacMillan.

Borg, S. (2001). The research journal: A tool for promoting and understanding researcher development. Language Teaching Research, 5(2): 156-177.

Busch, K.C., Henderson, J.A., and Stevenson, K.T. (2019). Broadening epistemologies and methodologies in climate change education research. Environmental Education Research, 25(6): 955-971.

Byrne, D. (2002). Interpreting Quantitative Data. London, Sage.

Cochran-Smith, M. and Lytle, S.L. (1990). Research on teaching and teacher research: the issues that divide. Educational Researcher, 19(2): 2-11.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Practical classes & workshops 53
Seminars 11
Tutorials 2
Independent study hours
Independent study 73

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Juurd Stelma Unit coordinator
Taslima Ivy Unit coordinator

Return to course details