Insights to transformative learning through education for sustainable development at the University of Brighton

Jennifer Elliott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Embedding education for sustainable development (ESD) within the curricula for all undergraduate students by 2012 became a corporate commitment at the University of Brighton in 2007. This paper presents aspects of two curricula research and development projects carried out to extend opportunities for, and engagement with, ESD towards this target and researches these for evidence of transformative outcomes being sought and achieved. It has been suggested that the aims of ESD and transformative education are closely coupled (particularly in the affective domain) and that sustainability in the curriculum can offer space for transformative learning to occur. This paper analyses student feedback data from a credited volunteering module centred on sustainable community development, and in-depth interviews with tutors undertaken within a university-wide investigation of the characteristics of current sustainable development learning and teaching at Brighton. The paper identifies that ESD learning for students is associated with substantial critical personal reflection and potentially embedded changes in values and behaviours. Students perceive and value their own transformations through this learning. The paper also finds that change-focused, transformative and long-term learning are regularly the outcomes sought by tutors engaged with ESD in many disciplines at Brighton. The paper identifies routes for future pedagogic research to develop further the potential of ESD for transformative learning, and in exploring the process of the two curricula development projects offers insights for other institutions looking to further embed ESD within curricula.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-113
Number of pages18
JournalLearning and Teaching in Higher Education
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Education for Sustainable Development, community-based learning, affective outcomes, transformative learning, University of Brighton


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