Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Education

Department

Higher Education Administration

Advisor's Name

Benjamin Baez

Advisor's Title

Committee Chair

Advisor's Name

Roger Geertz Gonzalez

Advisor's Name

Glenda Droogsma Musoba

Advisor's Name

Hilary Landorf

Keywords

sustainability, Education for Sustainability, Education for Sustainable Development, sustainable development, community college, community college faculty, higher education, teaching and learning, environmental literacy

Date of Defense

11-10-2010

Abstract

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.

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