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Strengthening Sustainability Programs and Curricula at the Undergraduate and Graduate Levels (2020)

Chapter: Appendix A: Definitions of Key Terms and Phrases Used in the Report

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Definitions of Key Terms and Phrases Used in the Report." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Strengthening Sustainability Programs and Curricula at the Undergraduate and Graduate Levels. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25821.
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Page 125
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Definitions of Key Terms and Phrases Used in the Report." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Strengthening Sustainability Programs and Curricula at the Undergraduate and Graduate Levels. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25821.
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Page 126
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Definitions of Key Terms and Phrases Used in the Report." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Strengthening Sustainability Programs and Curricula at the Undergraduate and Graduate Levels. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25821.
×
Page 127
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Definitions of Key Terms and Phrases Used in the Report." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Strengthening Sustainability Programs and Curricula at the Undergraduate and Graduate Levels. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25821.
×
Page 128
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Definitions of Key Terms and Phrases Used in the Report." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Strengthening Sustainability Programs and Curricula at the Undergraduate and Graduate Levels. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25821.
×
Page 129
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Definitions of Key Terms and Phrases Used in the Report." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Strengthening Sustainability Programs and Curricula at the Undergraduate and Graduate Levels. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25821.
×
Page 130

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Appendix A Definitions of Key Terms and Phrases Used in the Report Sustainable Development We use sustainable development with reference to its original use in Our Common Future (WCED, 1987, 37), and define it as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This is consistent with its use in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and similar contexts in which the term refers to the intergenerational balance between economic, environmental, and social con- straints in the pursuit of human development. Culture is increasingly included as a sustainability constraint (Pereira Roders and van Oers, 2011). Sustainability Sustainability refers to achieving individual, societal, and environmental well- being in present and future generations. The pursuit of sustainability explicitly links social, economic, and environmental goals. It requires understanding and working with the dynamics of socio-environmental systems (Matson et al., 2016). Different communities, initiatives, and scholars have articulated different specific goals, approaches, and outcomes in pursuit of sustainability (NRC, 1999; Quental et al., 2011; UN, 2015). Conceptions of sustainability range from those with an instrumental focus, such as the triple bottom line of benefiting “people, planet and profit” (McDonough and Braungart, 2002), and the three pillars of sustainability, with a focus on reconciling economic, social, and environmental goals (Purvis et al., 2019), to visionary aspiration for sustainability as the possibility of human and other life flourishing indefinitely on Earth (Ehrenfeld and Hoffman, 2013). The irreducibility of different goals, approaches, and outcomes is an inherent 125

126 APPENDIX A characteristic of sustainability (Lélé and Norgaard, 1996; Quental et al., 2011) and underpins this report’s themes and recommendations. It also offers entry points for integrating many academic fields, practitioner partners, and career paths into interdisciplinary sustainability curricula and programs in higher education. Sustainability Education Sustainability education refers to all aspects of student learning about sus- tainability in postsecondary or higher education. It includes student engagement in curricular and pedagogical aspects of instruction, student research, and student experiential learning at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Sustainability education is related to Education for Sustainable Development, or ESD, and environmental education.1 All three seek to develop a set of overlapping com- petencies in students; sustainability education encompasses the focus of ESD on processes and the focus of environmental education on ecosystems and the environment. Sustainability education seeks to link human and environmental well-being, thereby going beyond understanding the nature of environmental systems to include a focus on intra- and intergenerational human well-being. Its orientation is normative and interventionist, asking students to consider what the future should be and what we do to make it happen. This includes empathy and consideration of different value systems with a commitment to justice and equity (Jones et al., 2010; Moore, 2005b; Victor, 2009). In this report the terms sustainability education and sustainability in higher education are used interchangeably. Sustainability initiatives for campus op- erations, such as reducing water use, installing renewable energy systems, or reducing food waste may be part of the student educational experience. Where the report mentions such campus sustainability projects or initiatives, the words “project” and “initiative” are used, respectively, to describe them. Sustainability Education Programs/Sustainability Programs in Higher Education This report uses the terms sustainability education programs and sustainabil- ity programs in higher education interchangeably. “Programs” covers the range of educational, research, and engagement activities that are part of educational and curricular offerings, and it includes undergraduate and graduate majors and associated degree programs, minors, certificate programs, concentration or spe- cialization areas, practicums, service, and/or experiential learning activities. The term also includes curricular and pedagogical practices as well as basic and ap- plied research on sustainability issues. Chapter 2 provides examples of different 1  See UNESCO What is Education for Sustainable Development, available at https://en.unesco.org/ themes/education-sustainable-development/what-is-esd, accessed on September 23, 2020.

APPENDIX A 127 types of sustainability education programs. Many disciplines, from architecture to zoology, include sustainability issues but are not sustainability programs, per se. What distinguishes a sustainability education program is its integrated focus on the economic, environmental, and social dimensions of human development (Moore, 2005a). Sustainability Curricula Sustainability curricula refers to all the curricular and pedagogical con- cepts, activities, products, and processes associated with sustainability education programs as defined above (Thomas, 2004). These curricula vary widely across institutions because the interdisciplinary academic field of sustainability is still developing, and there is as yet no accredited standard curriculum for sustainabil- ity education (Rowe, 2007; Brundiers et al., 2020). Sustainability Science Research Sustainability science research, a component of many sustainability in higher education programs, refers to use-inspired basic and applied research that ad- vances both “useful knowledge and informed action” on sustainability issues (Clark, 2007). Student participation in sustainability science research may occur within higher education institutions or outside at other institutions that con- duct such research, including corporations, foundations, think tanks, government agencies or nonprofit and other civic society organizations (Hirsch-Hadorn et al., 2006). Sustainability science research is discussed further in Chapter 2. Sustainability Education Research The definition of sustainability education research differs from the defini- tion of sustainability science research. Sustainability education research focuses on issues of curriculum, pedagogy, student learning, and the assessment and evaluation of educational processes, programs, and outcomes, including the re- lationship of student learning and training with career trajectories and labor market outcomes. Sund and Lysgaard (2013) appeal for grounding this research in educational philosophy and emphasizing this research on the process of “edu- cation” aimed at “enhancing the acquisition of knowledge and understanding, and supporting the development of independent thought” as a key element of sustainability education. Environmental Education Environmental education refers to the range of subjects in education about the environment and spans a broad range of disciplinary subfields, such as envi-

128 APPENDIX A ronmental science, environmental engineering, ecology, environmental chemistry, environmental economics or ecological economics, environmental sociology, en- vironmental anthropology, environmental history, and environmental humanities. Environmental education may include topics that are relevant to and included in sustainability education, but when it focuses solely on principles and processes of the natural environment or seeks only to apply knowledge from a specific discipline to environmental challenges, it is different from sustainability educa- tion. That is, sustainability education’s consideration of the natural environment always is within the broader context of the social and economic environments in which generations of humanity live (Pearson et al., 2005). Similar to how engi- neering draws on physics or medicine draws on biology, sustainability education draws on and integrates disciplinary knowledges to teach students how to develop interventions to solve problems and improve well-being. The committee notes, however, that many interdisciplinary higher education programs that call themselves “Environmental Studies” or “Environment Sci- ences” align with the attributes of sustainability education (see the definition for this term). For instance, a large survey of U.S. interdisciplinary environmental programs found consensus in defining the field as “an applied, interdisciplinary focus on the interface of coupled human-natural systems with a normative com- mitment to sustainability” (Vincent and Focht, 2011). The survey also found a positive relationship between enrollment and program inclusion of sustainability (in core principles, course work, and research and service learning opportunities), preparing students to be change agents and providing community service. These parallel major features of sustainability education are addressed in Chapters 3 and 4 of this report. REFERENCES Brundiers, K., M. Barth, G. Cebrián, M. Cohen, L. Diaz, S. Doucette-Remington, W. Dripps, G. Habron, N. Harré, M. Jarchow, K. Losch, J. Michel, Y. Mochizuki, M. Rieckmann, R. Par- nell, P. Walker, and M. Zint. 2020. Key competencies in sustainability in higher education— Toward an agreed-upon reference framework. Sustainability Science. https://doi.org/10.1007/ s11625-020-00838-2. Clark, W. C. 2007. Sustainability science: A room of its own. Proceedings of the National Acad- emy of Sciences of the United States of America 104(6), 1737–1738. https://www.pnas.org/ content/104/6/1737. Ehrenfeld, J. R., and A. J. Hoffman. 2013. Flourishing: A Frank Conversation about Sustainability. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press. Hirsch-Hadorn, G., D. Bradley, C. Pohl, S. Rist, and U. Wiesmann. 2006. Implications of trans- disciplinarity for sustainability research. Ecological Economics 60(1), 119–128. https://doi. org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2005.12.002. Jones, P., D. Selby, and S. Sterling. 2010. Sustainability Education: Perspectives and Practice across Higher Education. New York: Earthscan. Lélé, S., and R. Norgaard. 1996. Sustainability and the scientist’s burden. Conservation Biology 10(2), 354–365.

APPENDIX A 129 Matson, P., W. C. Clark, and K. Andersson. 2016. Pursuing Sustainability: A Guide to the Science and Practice. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. McDonough, W., and M. Braungart. 2002. Design for the triple top line: New tools for sustainable commerce. Corporate Environmental Strategy 9(3), 251–258. https://www.sciencedirect.com/ science/article/abs/pii/S1066793802000696. Moore, J. 2005a. Barriers and pathways to creating sustainability education programs: Pol- icy, rhetoric and reality. Environmental Education Research 11(5), 537–555. https://doi. org/10.1080/13504620500169692. Moore, J. 2005b. Seven recommendations for creating sustainability education at the university level: A guide for change agents. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 6(4), 326–339. https://doi.org/10.1108/14676370510623829. NRC (National Research Council). 1999. Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/9690. Pearson, S., S. Honeywood, and M. O’Toole. 2005. Not yet learning for sustainability: The challenge of environmental education in a university. International Research in Geographical and Envi- ronmental Education 14(3), 173–186. https://doi.org/10.1080/10382040508668349. Pereira Roders, A., and R. van Oers. 2011. Editorial: Bridging cultural heritage and sustainable devel- opment. Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development 1(1), 5–14. https://doi.org/10.1108/20441261111129898. Purvis, B., Y. Mao, and D. Robinson. 2019. Three pillars of sustainability: In search of conceptual origins. Sustainability Science 14, 681–695. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-018-0627-5. Quental, N., J. Lourenço, and F. N. da Silva. 2011. Sustainability: Characteristics and scientific roots. Environment, Development and Sustainability 13, 257–276. https://link.springer.com/ article/10.1007/s10668-010-9260-x. Rowe, D. 2007. Education for a sustainable future. Science 317(20), 323–324. https://doi.org/10.1126/ science.1143552. Sund, P., and G. Lysgaard. 2013. Reclaim “education” in environmental and sustainability education research. Sustainability 5, 1598–1616. DOI: 10.3390/su5041598. Thomas, I. 2004. Sustainability in tertiary curricula: What is stopping it happening? International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 5(1), 33–47. https://doi.org/10.1108/14676370410517387. UN (United Nations). 2015. Sustainability Development Goals. http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/ sdgs. Victor, N. 2009. Preparing sustainability-literate teachers. Teachers College Record 111(2), 409–442. Vincent, S., and W. Focht. 2011. Interdisciplinary environmental education: Elements of field identity and curriculum design. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences 1, 14–35. DOI: 10.1007/ s13412-011-0007-2. WCED (World Commission on Environment and Development). 1987. Our Common Future. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

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Over the past decade there has been a growing interest in sustainability education in colleges and universities across the United States, with a marked increase in the number of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, research institutes, and centers focused on sustainability. Evidence-based core competencies for interdisciplinary sustainability programs can provide suitable guidance for curricular and program development, research, policy, communication, and pedagogical approaches at academic institutions. They can also serve as a guide for students to select academic programs and potential career options, a reference for employers to understand qualifications of graduates, and the foundation for a potential specialized accreditation for interdisciplinary sustainability programs. The growing demand for well-qualified sustainability professionals within the public, private, and nonprofit sectors also points to the value of developing core competencies.

Strengthening Sustainability Programs and Curricula at the Undergraduate and Graduate Levels provides expert insights for strengthening the emerging discipline of sustainability in higher education in the United States. This report describes the local, national, and global landscape related to sustainability education; examines the history and current status of sustainability education programs in the United States and globally; discusses employment prospects for sustainability graduates in terms of the opportunities and the skills that employers seek; and addresses diversity, equity, and inclusion in sustainability-related education and employment.

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