DOI link for Introduction
DOI link for Introduction
In 2012, twenty years after the 1992World Summit on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, the normative idea of sustainable development was celebrated with a follow-up conference – again in Rio de Janeiro (Rio+20). In this time, a growing awareness of the increasing scale of human impacts on the natural environment not only contributed to the emergence of the concept of sustainable development but also fostered a scientific response to the fundamental social, cultural, economic and ecological changes that humankind is confronted with. This search for ways for a transition towards sustainability is a process of social learning in its broadest sense. Accordingly, it is not only learning that is at issue but education and educational science,which is about exploring the preconditions of and opportunities for learning and education – whether individual or social, whether in formal or informal settings. The emerging area of education for sustainable development (ESD) emphasises aspects of learn-
ing that enhance the transition towards sustainability, ‘translates’ research outcomes of sustainability science into educational practices and is an integrative approach to teaching and learning. Thus, it represents a changed educational paradigm, rather than yet another ‘adjectival’ education. ESD supports individuals in reflecting on their own actions by taking into account their current and future social and environmental effects – from a global perspective – and to intervene productively in shaping them in a sustainable manner. Individuals should be empowered to act in complex situations which may require the individual to strike out in new directions. Therefore, ESD aims to develop competencies that enable individuals to participate in socio-political processes and hence to move their society towards sustainable development. How ESD matured in an academic area in its own right can be reconstructed on the three
different but related levels of policy, pedagogies and research. The latter is witnessed by a fast growing number of articles and books on the topic, the establishment of specific journals as well as special issues on ESD in existing journals and finally a growing number of international conferences. Among the educational sectors universities as research and teaching institutions are playing
an important role since they not only generate and transfer relevant knowledge, but they also can educate future decision makers to enable them to contribute to a (more) sustainable future. Dealing with the concept of sustainable development, offers the opportunity for universities to understand and face up to complexity as well as to cope with uncertainty and diverging norms and values. Furthermore it facilitates systemic institutional and organisational change of
universities and provides them with spaces for future-oriented and transformative thinking and learning. Accordingly, research on higher education for sustainable development (HESD) features promi-
nently in the ESD discourse – with distinctive topics and research approaches. Over the last decade, a number of research initiatives and postgraduate programmes worldwide gained momentum and engaged with research in this area. However, what is still missing is a systematic overview of existing approaches as well as an introduction in this emerging field of research. This Handbook of Higher Education for Sustainable Development aims at filling that gap and providing an orientation of existing and upcoming research approaches for HESD. Thus, it surveys where research on HESD is at the present time and where it may be going in the future. Its approach is twofold: while a more theoretical overview of existing approaches helps to understand the various foci and perspectives and to structure the emerging research area, these approaches are exemplified in tangible applications which offer insights in hands-on experiences and critically discusses content and methods of latest research projects. The Handbook – with its international authors from leading universities in research and
teaching in HESD – brings together a broad range of different research approaches and shows how these approaches are reflected in the research practice in HESD. Thus, the Handbook pioneers in its attempt to structure an emerging field while at the same time it complements existing resources for researchers in HESD, such as general introductions in educational research, and draws upon the tradition of environmental education and research in that field. The Handbook targets those academics who conduct research on HESD or plan to do so.
This means at least three distinctive groups of researchers are addressed: Early career researchers up from postgraduate level, who start to establish a research career and are already trained in courses or programmes explicitly dedicated to higher education for sustainable development; early and mid-career researchers coming from a variety of different disciplines such as educational science in general, educational psychology or environmental or sustainability (social) sciences who specialise in HESD as an area of research; and finally academics who engage with research on HESD as part of their sustainability related teaching and learning scholarship. Organising any field of study, especially one as diverse as HESD, is no easy matter; whatever
scheme we could have employed would have captured only part of the complexity of scholarship in HESD. We have decided to structure the Handbook in four parts: Part 1 – Education for sustainable development in higher education;Part 2 – Paradigms and methodologies of research on higher education for sustainable development; Part 3 – Issues and themes of research on higher education for sustainable development; and Part 4 – Examples of research on higher education for sustainable development.