Academic staff development as a catalyst for curriculum change towards education for sustainable development: an output perspective

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Implementing education for sustainable development (ESD) in university curricula poses a new challenge to the academic system. In recent years many universities have undertaken activities towards its implementation and numerous case studies of such processes have been documented. However, it remains a great challenge to change university curricula in such a way that they are transformed into 'built-in' sustainability. How then can deep-rooted implementation be facilitated? It has been argued that learning processes which can enable transformative changes largely depend on academic staff and their capabilities and willingness to support such processes. Although there are only few examples that focus on academic staff in higher education as a starting point to bring about change, research indicates promising opportunities to do so. In this context this article describes the case of an academic staff development programme which was implemented at the Universidad Técnica del Norte (Ecuador) and analyses the extent to which such a programme has positive effects on transformative changes towards a sustainable university. The analysis of the programme shows that it not only facilitated the personal competence development of the participating academic staff and changed their teaching practice, but also that it influenced the general organisational development of the university. The results of this case study thus highlight the potential benefits of ESD academic staff development programmes in terms of their relevance for initiating individual learning processes as well as for facilitating social learning and, in this respect, confirm the idea that the competence development of academic staff is an essential prerequisite for a sustainability paradigm shift in higher education.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Pages (from-to)28-36
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 05.2012

    Research areas

  • Sustainability education - Curriculum change, Education for sustainable development, Higher education, North-South co-operation, Organisational development, Staff development