Perspective Transformation Regarding Sustainability in Higher Education
School of Education, University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point
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This study examined transformative sustainability learning (TSL) by determining the occurrence of perspective transformation (PT) regarding sustainability in sustainability-focused courses offered at a public university. 131 students in two upper-division general education courses with a sustainability-focused course designation were included in the study. Four course sections, two per course, were considered as four separate cases. Each course section was analyzed as its own case, then a cross-case analyses was performed among the four cases. Data was collected in the forms of mid-semester and end of course surveys; mid-semester focus groups; end of semester, semi-structured student interviews and class observations. An index was applied to the survey data to determine whether or not PT occurred for individual participants. Learning activities were identified as contributors to PT emphasizing the role instructors play and five subcategories of class learning experiences. Three key findings were drawn from this mixed-methods case study. First, PT regarding sustainability did occur in upper-division general education courses with a sustainability-focused course designation. Second, challenges and support from course instructors are important contributors to PT. Third, the subcategory of critical-thinking assignments had the highest number of class learning experiences reported by participants as contributing to PT. Recommendations for practitioners and researchers for professional development, continued refinement of the research design and further studies are offered. The conclusions drawn from the study are PT can occur in courses where PT regarding sustainability was not the primary outcome and multiple class learning experiences that build upon one another seem to create a synergy that is more impactful than a single class learning experience on PT.
Transformative sustainability learning