First Advisor

Christine Cress

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Postsecondary Education


Educational Leadership and Policy




Sustainability -- Study and teaching (Higher), Environmental responsibility -- Study and teaching (Higher), Environmental education -- Study and teaching (Higher), Experiential learning -- Study and teaching (Higher), Education, Higher -- Philosophy, Action research -- Study and teaching (Higher)



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, viii, 256 pages)


Postsecondary teaching and learning must be reoriented to equip learners with the knowledge, skills, and values they will need for creating a more sustainable world. This action research study examined the effects of implementing the Bums model of sustainability pedagogy in university courses taught by the researcher. This model is comprised of five key dimensions: (1 )Content; (2)Perspectives; (3)Process; (4)Context; and (5)Design. The Burns model of sustainability pedagogy seeks to: (1) increase learners' systemic understanding of complex sustainability issues (Content); (2) provide learners with opportunities to think critically about dominant paradigms, practices and power relationships and consider complex ecological and social issues from diverse perspectives (Perspectives); (3) enhance learners' civic responsibility and intentions to work toward sustainability through active participation and experience (Process); (4) increase learners' understanding of and connection with the geographical place and the community in which they live (Context); and (5) utilize an ecological course design to create transformative learning (Design). This pedagogical model reflects education as sustainability, a transformative learning process through which learners' values and perspectives change so that they are able to embrace sustainability and take action for change.

Findings revealed that through the use of sustainability themes, students came to understand sustainability Content concretely, personally, and multidimensionally. Students understood multiple Perspectives and power relationships through experiential learning, through relationships with one another, by hopeful examples, and by learning to think critically. Due to a participatory and experiential learning Process, students expressed intentions to buy locally and to act directly for sustainable change. Through a focus on Context, students experienced stronger connections to their local community. A self-reflective teaching process and relational learning was important to the Design of a transformational learning process. The results show that the Burns model of sustainability pedagogy can be adapted to university courses in various disciplines.

This study contributes to the field of sustainability education by providing an example ofan effective model for teaching sustainability at the university level. In order to prepare diverse learners for leadership roles in a sustainable world, attention must be focused on integrating transformative sustainability pedagogy throughout postsecondary education.


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Portland State University. Dept. of Educational Leadership and Policy

Persistent Identifier