Vol. 47 No. 2 (2017)

Teaching Sustainability in Higher Education: Pedagogical Styles that Make a Difference

Carol Scarff Seatter
University of British Columbia
Kim Ceulemans
University of Victoria, Gustavson School of Business, Centre for Social and Sustainable Innovation, Victoria, BC, Canada

Published 2017-08-27

How to Cite

Scarff Seatter, C., & Ceulemans, K. (2017). Teaching Sustainability in Higher Education: Pedagogical Styles that Make a Difference. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 47(2), 47–70. https://doi.org/10.47678/cjhe.v47i2.186284


The challenge of teaching sustainable development in higher education can mean that students—as future citizens—are left without insight, commitment, or a sense of their position regarding meaningful beliefs and actions related to sustainability. A paradox arises when educators approach a sustainability curriculum that has the potential to transform students’ thinking and actions, with a reductive and non-substantive pedagogy. This paper uses an epistemological and pedagogical analysis of relevant literature to redefine, clarify, and provide a more systematic and holistic understanding of a transformative pedagogy required for learning. The central thesis juxtaposes three sustainability curricular positions with three pedagogical models that vary decidedly in their emphasis on the prerogative of the learner’s prior knowledge and beliefs, the engagement of the learner, and the potential for critical thinking and transformative learning. It is found that a transformative pedagogy overcomes and eliminates the paradox, helping societies become more sustainable.



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