First Advisor

Dilafruz Williams

Term of Graduation

Spring 2005

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Education: Policy, Foundation and Administration






Environmental education -- United States, Higher Education -- Environmental aspects, Sustainable development -- United States



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, xiv, 300 pages)


Sustainability education is a growing field still being defined. It draws from environmental education, but includes social justice and economic equity alongside environmental health. International efforts to define the parameters of sustainability education at the university level have called for interdisciplinary approaches that emphasize culture. However, in the United States most programs concerned with sustainability follow in the footsteps of environmental studies with a focus on science and public policy.

Seven interdisciplinary master's programs in sustainability education were reviewed as potential models for how the larger university system might approach teaching for sustainability. Document analysis was used to compare program

structure, philosophy, pedagogy, and curriculum of programs located at Antioch University, Eastern Michigan University, Lesley University, New College of California, Portland State University, Prescott College, and Saint Mary-of-theWoods College. Interviews and focus groups were conducted with faculty and students of Portland State University's program to record their thoughts on teaching ecoliteracy within a sustainability context. The primary study questions are (a) can education and leadership programs in sustainability provide useful models for university education as a whole? and (b) how might sustainability redefine ecoliteracy?

Qualitative analysis of this research suggests that master's degree programs in sustainability education are modeling ways to create institutional culture that supports biocultural sustainability by (a) institutionalizing their commitment to sustainability, (b) reinforcing this commitment through pedagogy, (c) exploring ways to provide depth and breadth in sustainability curriculum, and ( d) utilizing collaborative approaches to leadership. Students at Portland State University's program feel that an ecoliteracy curriculum should emphasize the ecological, personal, spiritual, ethical, cultural, regenerative and restorative aspects of the human-nature relationship to be most effective for teaching about ecology within a sustainability context. This ecoliteracy curriculum would use nature as classroom and text; teach from multiple cultural and disciplinary perspectives; include science, traditional ecological knowledge, creative arts, ritual and ceremony; teach practical skills for rebuilding a natural economy; and provide students with opportunities to develop cross-cultural relationships and communication skills for speaking about ecology to multiple stakeholders.


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