A critique of academic development in sustainability for tertiary educators

Holdsworth, S 2010, A critique of academic development in sustainability for tertiary educators, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title A critique of academic development in sustainability for tertiary educators
Author(s) Holdsworth, S
Year 2010
Abstract Current global trends provide qualitative and quantitative evidence of a world in crisis, describing the decline of our environmental and social systems. A dramatic change in our mindset and behaviour is required if this is to change, education is seen as a means of addressing and resolving these crises.

However, current approaches to education are more aligned to educational practice than to praxis and are not necessarily the best models to achieve this transformative change. Sustainability education has been advocated as one way of achieving what is required. Education founded on a sustainability paradigm differs from traditional approaches to education in its structure, content and pedagogy.

Despite international calls for sustainability education the principles of sustainability education have not yet been integrated into mainstream curricula. This is especially critical in universities, as they have the potential to contribute to social dynamism, economic security and environmental sustainability of the communities within which they operate.

Academic development is a key way to create change in academic learning and teaching praxis. Currently there is a lack of support for the training, time and recognition from peers that would legitimise sustainability within universities. Greater understanding of praxis – pedagogy, approaches to learning and teaching and curriculum development – relating to academic development is required.

This thesis identifies the requirements of academic development programs which will provide educators with the capabilities to deliver sustainability education. A theoretical framework was developed from an analysis of the literature in the following areas: sustainability education, academic development and organisational change within universities. Three international case studies in which alternative approaches to academic development in sustainability have been implemented are critically evaluated against the three themes identified in the framework. The results of the case studies are used to ‘ground’ the framework, and identify the features of academic development programs most likely to result in lasting change for sustainability. These include:
• placing sustainability education praxis as the central goal of any academic development program
• allowing flexible definitions of sustainability to facilitate the role of disciplinary and personal experience in their construction
• acknowledging the need to explore the way an educators’ own worldview shapes their educational practice and aiming to achieve a shift of consciousness and changes in behaviour and professional practice
• building on the following four phases so that educators are able to teach in a way that achieves third-order learning:
 confrontation: recognising that change is required in current practice
 developing self-awareness
 recognising alternative approaches
 building commitment to a new conception
• providing the opportunity for those developing and delivering academic development programs to continually develop their own pedagogy
• leading academic development from the ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ and identifying and supporting (financially and collegially) drivers of change.
• understanding that universities have a distinctive dominant culture because of their complex social organisation so that the occurrence of cultural conflict is minimised and the development of shared goals is fostered
• giving intensive and personalised support to those undertaking change.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global Studies, Social Science and Planning
Keyword(s) Sustainability Education
Academic Development
Learning and Teaching
Curriculum Development
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Created: Fri, 08 Apr 2011, 14:28:01 EST by Guy Aron
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