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Teaching and learning sustainability: An assessment of the curriculum content and structure of sustainability degree programs in higher education

O Byrne, David LU ; Dripps, Weston and Nicholas, Kimberly LU (2015) In Sustainability Science 10(1). p.43-59
Abstract
Sustainability degree programs in higher education have proliferated with the emergence of sustainability as a recognized academic field. This study evaluated the curricula of English-language programs granting degrees in sustainability by analyzing 27 bachelor's and 27 master's sustainability programs based on their (1) curricular structure, in terms of the proportion of core versus elective courses, (2) breadth of the core courses, which were classified into one of ten disciplinary categories, and (3) specific disciplinary content of core course subjects. We found that core courses made up the majority of both curricula, although bachelor's programs were more flexible than master's. Within these core courses, sustainability and social... (More)
Sustainability degree programs in higher education have proliferated with the emergence of sustainability as a recognized academic field. This study evaluated the curricula of English-language programs granting degrees in sustainability by analyzing 27 bachelor's and 27 master's sustainability programs based on their (1) curricular structure, in terms of the proportion of core versus elective courses, (2) breadth of the core courses, which were classified into one of ten disciplinary categories, and (3) specific disciplinary content of core course subjects. We found that core courses made up the majority of both curricula, although bachelor's programs were more flexible than master's. Within these core courses, sustainability and social sciences were found in more than 85 % of both bachelor's and master's programs, as were natural sciences at the bachelor's level. Less than half of sustainability master's programs required a natural science course, which on average made up just 2 % of required course credits. No text was widely used in core sustainability courses. Our findings demonstrate that there is a wide divergence between the content of programs granting degrees in sustainability; many do not appear to be achieving the integration of natural and social sciences proposed in the literature. We believe that some shared foundations between programs is necessary for sustainability to develop into a mature scientific program that is recognizable across universities and understood by academics, employers, and civil society, and is effective in training the next generation of sustainability scholars and scientists. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Sustainability education, Curriculum design, Sustainability pedagogy, Program design, Interdisciplinary education
in
Sustainability Science
volume
10
issue
1
pages
43 - 59
publisher
Springer
external identifiers
  • wos:000346864500004
  • scopus:84937126739
ISSN
1862-4057
DOI
10.1007/s11625-014-0251-y
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
699be2f4-5bd2-4b81-a7a4-b214e3c44b05 (old id 4941364)
date added to LUP
2015-01-26 16:32:00
date last changed
2017-11-19 03:21:40
@article{699be2f4-5bd2-4b81-a7a4-b214e3c44b05,
  abstract     = {Sustainability degree programs in higher education have proliferated with the emergence of sustainability as a recognized academic field. This study evaluated the curricula of English-language programs granting degrees in sustainability by analyzing 27 bachelor's and 27 master's sustainability programs based on their (1) curricular structure, in terms of the proportion of core versus elective courses, (2) breadth of the core courses, which were classified into one of ten disciplinary categories, and (3) specific disciplinary content of core course subjects. We found that core courses made up the majority of both curricula, although bachelor's programs were more flexible than master's. Within these core courses, sustainability and social sciences were found in more than 85 % of both bachelor's and master's programs, as were natural sciences at the bachelor's level. Less than half of sustainability master's programs required a natural science course, which on average made up just 2 % of required course credits. No text was widely used in core sustainability courses. Our findings demonstrate that there is a wide divergence between the content of programs granting degrees in sustainability; many do not appear to be achieving the integration of natural and social sciences proposed in the literature. We believe that some shared foundations between programs is necessary for sustainability to develop into a mature scientific program that is recognizable across universities and understood by academics, employers, and civil society, and is effective in training the next generation of sustainability scholars and scientists.},
  author       = {O Byrne, David and Dripps, Weston and Nicholas, Kimberly},
  issn         = {1862-4057},
  keyword      = {Sustainability education,Curriculum design,Sustainability pedagogy,Program design,Interdisciplinary education},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {1},
  pages        = {43--59},
  publisher    = {Springer},
  series       = {Sustainability Science},
  title        = {Teaching and learning sustainability: An assessment of the curriculum content and structure of sustainability degree programs in higher education},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11625-014-0251-y},
  volume       = {10},
  year         = {2015},
}