What do students experience as transformative sustainability learning?

Master thesis project by Jacqueline Kolb

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Full title: What do students experience as transformative sustainability learning? Analyzing the Reflections of Undergraduates in Sustainability

Abstract: Sustainability education has drawn from several theories of learning throughout its emergence as a field, with a recent focus on the different perspectives of transformative learning theory. Transformative learning theory has primarily been used in sustainability education research to define or analyze the outcomes sustainability education should achieve and to a lesser extent to examine the learning processes involved in transformative sustainability learning. However, sustainability education research has neglected to investigate what processes students themselves have experienced as effective at creating transformative sustainability learning. This study investigates which aspects of education are linked to transformative learning outcomes through student-related collages and interviews. Student reflections revealed five key themes which supported transformative sustainability learning including: arts/media, interconnectedness, sustainability mentorship, a community of learning, and participation in alternative futures. These five emerging themes confirm previous work in transformative learning research and support the key competencies of sustainability. The five themes also reveal the critical role relational aspects of education play in triggering and supporting transformational learning, emphasizing a need to design programs from a broader, cultural perspective instead of the traditional curricula-oriented one. Further discussion on the weakness of the traditional curriculum in supporting students without a strong capacity for self-directed learning reveals a new area to explore to help ESD transform societies, not just individuals.

Degree program: Master of Science (Global Sustainability Science)

Supervisory Committee: Daniel Fischer (co-chair), Matthias Barth (co-chair)

Defended in June 2021

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