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ERIC Number: EJ1064081
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015
Pages: 17
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 53
ISSN: ISSN-1467-6370
Gaps in Sustainability Education: The Impact of Higher Education Coursework on Perceptions of Sustainability
Fisher, P. Brian; McAdams, Erin
International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, v16 n4 p407-423 2015
Purpose: This paper aims to examine how both the amount and type of coursework impact students' conceptualizations of sustainability. Previous research demonstrates that academic coursework influences students' environmental attitudes, yet few studies have examined the impact of coursework on how students conceptualize "sustainability". Design/methodology/approach: Data are examined from the 2011 Sustainability Survey, which yielded a sample of 552 students at a medium-sized university in the southeastern USA. A series of four linear regression models estimate the impact of academic coursework on students' conceptualizations of sustainability (ecosystems/nature, eco-efficiency, community/well-being and systemic change/innovation). Findings: The results indicate that the type of course that students take significantly impacts the way in which students conceptualize this term; the number of courses taken has no statistically significant impact. This suggests that mere exposure to a particular theme in a class, rather than continued exposure to courses related to sustainability, is more important in shaping students' perceptions. Originality/value: This study expands on previous research by examining the influence of the number and type of academic coursework on students' conceptions of sustainability and provides a framework for understanding the varied ways in which sustainability is defined. This has important implications for how students approach ways to achieve a sustainable future. The results suggest that students may be exposed to particular messages within an academic division that encourage students to emphasize particular elements of sustainability. While not problematic on its face, the data demonstrate that students lack an integrated or holistic understanding of sustainability. They usually view sustainability through the same prism as the academic division where their coursework was located, and this has implications for students' continued perceptions of sustainability, academic programming of sustainability and the practice of it.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: South Carolina