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School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school


Kay Fretwell

Kay Fretwell
Kay Fretwell
Sociology School of Social and Political Science University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh UK
Research Interests
Education for Sustainable Development, Higher Education, Transformative Learning, Environmental Education, Outdoor Learning, Education and Social Change, Education Policy, Sociology of Education

PhD Title

Going beyond Transmission: Promoting the Transformative Potential of Education for Sustainable Development

This study proposes to investigate how ESD can go beyond the necessary but insufficient goal of transmission of knowledge and offer truly transformative learning opportunities; enabling learners to make decisions that consider the long-term impacts on the environment and society. Education over the past decades has actually exacerbated sustainability challenges. There have been calls for a new kind of education that includes context, reflection and transformative learning.

The objectives of this study are to explore the impacts of university-level ESD courses on students, and to determine how such courses might be designed to enable transformative learning experiences.

The project will involve mixed methods, including:

  • Longitudinal quantitative surveys of students in selected case study courses
  • Semi-structured interviews with students, graduates, and teachers of case study courses
  • Designing and testing effects of one or more innovative learning experiences on students against a control cohort
  • Reflecting on and sharing results with wider audiences, to leverage wide-scale change in ESD policy and practice