The role of community college faculty in teaching and learning for sustainable development

Anouchka Rachelson, Florida International University


The purpose of this study was to explore the attitudes, beliefs, and practices of community college professors regarding education for sustainable development (ESD). In-depth interviews with 14 professors from different disciplines were conducted. The participants taught at Miami Dade College, Florida, a Talloires Declaration signatory since 2006, and all had attended Green Studies professional development workshops. Written documents such as assignments and samples of student work were used for triangulation. The annual report of the college’s Earth Ethics Institute and its Web site served as additional sources. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed for common themes. The Talloires Declaration’s 10-point action plan and the key characteristics of ESD (UN DESD, 2006) served as the conceptual framework. ^ The study found that the professors considered ESD an essential issue. The majority discussed the economic and social aspects of ESD; however, the environmental aspect was mentioned most frequently. The professors’ conceptualizations of ESD were influenced by their experiences and evidenced by the metaphors they used. Although their engagement with ESD differed, the professors expressed optimism toward ESD related teaching and learning. They regarded ESD as compatible with their subjects, and most had already been infusing sustainability into their courses or planned to do so. Additionally, the participants’ teaching practices reflected many of the characteristics of ESD. Even though the professors considered ESD challenging, they believed that they could make contributions to the college’s effort. The metaphor of “Planting a Seed” was frequently used to describe this holistic approach. The study also found that many professors regarded interpersonal relationships and communication significant factors for the advancement of ESD. ^ The participants described several challenges to integrating ESD at their college. These related to time constraints, density of curriculum, institutional size and fragmentation, dearth of administrative support and incentives, students’ lack of academic preparation and sustainability awareness, students’ inability to focus on ESD because of personal, social, or economic circumstances, and professors’ frustration about a divisive atmosphere as a result of their engagement with sustainability. Despite these obstacles, the professors believed that ESD could be successfully woven into the community college experience. ^

Subject Area

Education, Community College|Education, Leadership|Sustainability|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Rachelson, Anouchka, "The role of community college faculty in teaching and learning for sustainable development" (2010). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3447788.