AAEE & ACTS Conference Workshops

See the ACTS Key Note Address by Prof. Stephen Sterling on Sustainability Education – UK and International Perspectives – also via the ACTS Website 

At the recent (November 2014) conferences of AAEE  (Australian Association for Environmental Education) and ACTS (Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability) we held workshops, telling people about the Network and asking them to think about what they would want Sustainability Education in Tertiary to look like in the next 3-4 years, if we have been successful.

The responses of the participants are collated in a table towards the end of this page. We have taken their responses and woven them into a statement outlining what Sustainability Education in Tertiary COULD look like; it goes like this (thanks to all who came along and contributed their ideas):

What We Want Sustainability Education To Look Like In Australia in 3-4 Years’ Time 

Summary of ideas from the Workshops held at the AAEE and ACTS Conferences, Hobart, November 2014 (Colin Hocking 17/11/2014)

Action Learning: We want Sustainability Education in the next three to four years to become more practically relevant and more oriented towards problem solving. This will involve more action-oriented learning projects, collaborative learning, peer learning, online modules with collaborative processes, and learning that model sustainable approaches, methods and materials.

Place & Context: We want more place and project-based learning, so that sustainability education is localized and contextualized, using place-based and ‘living-lab’ approaches that seek the opinions and input of the wider community. We think that this will also help to enhance the status and position of sustainability education in our institutions.

Systems Oriented: We need sustainability education that is more wholistic and systems oriented, and seen to be ubiquitous and apparent in all rubrics of learning.

Disciplines & Inter-Disciplinary: There is a place for sustainability education in discipline–based learning, integrated with its industry relevance. But it also needs to be more strongly multi- and inter-disciplinary, in ways that break down disciplinary structures, promotes cross-disciplinary learning and communicates across silos.

Embedded in Assessment, Learning Outcomes and Measurable: Overall, we want to see sustainability education more fully embedded in tertiary-level learning. We need to see the outcomes of this more clearly in assessments of learning, including the assessments of practical, action learning projects. Sustainability education needs to be more apparent in the graduate learning outcomes/attributes of institutions, and we need to find better ways to measure and map the incorporation of sustainability into tertiary learning, including external measures of sustainability provision and ways to map key sustainability education strengths across units of learning.

Exploring Values, Norms & Futures: Sustainability education needs to be better at exploring values and their consequences. This includes more engagement of students and staff in exploring possible future scenarios, questioning these scenarios, and promoting leadership for changes in culture. We need to see more respect amongst staff of sustainability education, so that there is a wider acceptance of responsibility for the future and responding to future needs. This will involve questioning existing paradigms and social norms.

Transforming Self, Others & Society: The transformation required by and of sustainability education over the next few years includes increased caring for self, others and the places we and others live. It means looking at the impacts of change towards sustainability at the personal level and communication of this at the community level. It means empowering staff and student to transform themselves/ourselves and the cultures and society of which we are a part, including the promotion of activism where appropriate.

Sharing Resources, Developing as Professionals: Ways that we as a network of sustainability practitioners can assist these changes are through sharing learning and teaching resources (for example, a National Sharing Something Day), and professional development that enhances the capacity of teaching staff , in association with their students, to question social norms and offer more practical and action-oriented learning, among other professional development needs / as professional development priorities.

Broadening and Deepening Institutional Uptake: We need to see and support the broadening of sustainability education across and within institutions, and work to build commitment and support at the highest levels, so that sustainability education is more widely mandated, and/or strengthened in institutional policies and strategies.

Objectives & Incentives: For sustainability to be successful in the ways outlined above, we need to develop clear objectives and create/identify incentives to drive the changes needed, in both the explicit (formal) and latent (hidden and enriching) curriculum.

One Step At A Time: We will begin our networking of practitioners from where we are, with objectives, working groups, professional development, etc., and with the understanding that the transformation of the tertiary education systems in ways that fully embed sustainability is going take more that three to four years, we have at least taken another significant step..


Topic/Area AAEE Ideas ACTS Ideas  
Relevant/Practical/ Problem-solving Using relevant issues as a basisPractice/project based learning


Practical tasks – collective directionPractical action learning projects
Learning Pedagogy & Methods Collaborative learningPeer learning

On-line modules & group collaboration

Modeling sustainable approaches, methods, materials

Place & Project-based Project & place-based education (contextualized)Localization – contextualized, action/place-based Practical/action learning project (i.e. volunteering)Living labs & systems

Living labs

Community Included  Seek opinions of [wider] community – [to enhance] status/position of EfS 
Systems Oriented Wholistic/systematicSystems thinking approach to research rationale

In all rubrics

Living labs & systems /ubiquitous
Discipline-based Discipline specific sustainability integrated with industry relevance
Multi- / Inter- Disciplinary Multi-disciplinaryBreak down disciplinary structures

Cross-disciplinary learning





Communicating across silos

Embedded Embedded
Assessment/ Graduate Attributes Assessed (grades & progress)Sustainability as part of graduate attributes


AssessmentAssessment for practical action learning projects

Graduate Learning Outcomes

Measurement & Mapping An external measure of sustainability provision Mapping key strengths across units
Values/ Responsibility Explore values & consequences Respect amongst staff – accepting responsibility [&] respondingRespect, responsibility, responding
Futures Oriented Staff/students engaged in possible future scenario thinking/namingLeadership & culture making for change

Questioning future scenarios

Challenging Questioning existing paradigms  Questioning social norms – [needs] professional developmentQuestioning social norms
Transforming Caring for self, others & their place  Impact at personal level -> communication at community levelStaff & students to be empowered


Culture change


Advocating Activist 
Resource Sharing Recognition for sharing – National Sharing [Something] Day? 
Professional Development Questioning social norms – [needs] professional developmentPractical/action learning – comes back to education of staff

Professional development of staff & students

Across Tertiary Institutions Broadening across universities
Management Support Commitment at highest levels= mandate/policy/strategy
Other Explicit & latent curriculumCreate incentives/objectives


Longer Term Change takes longer than 3-4 years. We will see:-       working groups

–       more policy

But is this enough?





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