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The Roles of Policy, Conceptualizations, and Pedagogical Methods in Teaching about Sustainable Consumption in Higher Education: A Mixed Methods Study



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This study sought to understand how sustainable consumption (SC) is taught within Canadian post-secondary education (PSE) institutions. More specifically, this study investigated how faculty define and conceptualize SC, both personally and within their classrooms, how they teach about SC, and how they came to teach about it in those ways. Connections between content and methods to international, national and/or institutional policies were also explored. This study was part of a larger project conducted by the Sustainability and Education Policy Network (SEPN). SEPN analyzes and compares sustainability policy development and enactment within kindergarten to grade 12 (K-12) schools and PSE institutions across Canada. The current study was situated within the national survey component of the SEPN project and utilized an embedded mixed methods design. Data included survey results, semi-structured interviews, and course materials provided by six faculty members. Data analysis stemmed from the philosophical viewpoint of constructivism. From this analysis, faculty members’ definitions of SC were categorized as either futures thinking or needs-based thinking. Faculty members’ conceptualizations of SC within their classrooms were categorized according to four overarching themes of: functional, sociological, psychological, and economic considerations. While faculty members utilized a variety of teaching methods, those that were also compatible with social learning theory were particularly useful in overcoming barriers. Teaching methods developed from a variety of factors unique to each individual but generally resulted from their education, research, reading, personal and work experiences, and relationships. Most participants appeared to be somewhat influenced by policies, though this influence was not always readily apparent. This study provides a useful addition to the literature as few studies assess faculty members’ conceptualizations of SC and it also provides an in-depth overview of possible conceptualizations and teaching methods.



Education for sustainable consumption, Conceptualizations, Teaching methods, Education policy, Social learning theory, Practice theory, Higher education, Mixed methods



Master of Education (M.Ed.)


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Educational Foundations


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