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How not what: teaching sustainability as process

Author(s): E. Melanie DuPuis | Tamara Ball

Journal: Sustainability : Science, Practice and Policy
ISSN 1548-7733

Volume: 9;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 64;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: education | learning | colleges and universities | design | environmental engineering | sustainability

Ever since the word “sustainability” entered public discourse, the concept has escaped definition. The United Nations has christened the years 2005–2014 “The UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development” and has called upon universities “to make education for sustainability a central focus of higher education curricula, research, physical operations, student life, and outreach to local, regional, and global communities.” Nevertheless, the indeterminacy of sustainability as a concept has challenged those designing university sustainability efforts, in terms of both campus planning and curricula. Some instructors and campus sustainability planners have chosen to stabilize sustainability concepts into a technical and ethical “greenprint” based on some agreement concerning shared (or imposed) concepts and values. Yet others have realized that this is not a problem to be “solved” but instead presents an opportunity to advance and implement alternative approaches to teaching and learning “post-normal” or “Mode 2” science. This article describes a curricular design that attempts to maintain both canonical disciplinary learning about the techniques of sustainability and training in the reflexive skills necessary to explore sustainable change through post-normal learning processes, which we delineate as three “modes of knowing.” By training students to practice these ways of knowing sustainability, they come to understand the “how” of sustainable practice, process, and design, while allowing the “what” of sustainability to emerge from group interaction in a collaborative context.
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