SUSTAINABILITY COMPETENCIES AND EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING IN HIGHER EDUCATION: STUDENT PERCEPTIONS

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Abstract: Aim: The purpose of this study was to investigate university student perceptions of their competencies of and propensity to act for sustainability, while they study on a module designed with use of the experiential learning approach. Theory: The conceptual framework of this research was based on a combination of theories; experiential learning (Dewey, 1963) that focuses on the development of student knowing, being and doing, and transformational learning theory (Mezirow, 2000) that has inspired the key sustainability competencies (Brundiers et al., 2020; Wiek et al., 2011). Method: A mixed method approach to research has been used to collect empirical data through questionnaires, discussion forum activities and reflective papers from a class of first year undergraduate business students at a university in Sweden.Results: Firstly, there was evidence to suggest that the students’ confidence in their key sustainable competencies (KSC) increase as the students approach the end of the module. Secondly, evidence shows that as the students’ confidence in their KSC increases, so does their propensity to act for sustainability. Thirdly, the students’ experiential learning and intrapersonal competency for sustainability has a positive relation with the students’ propensity to act for sustainability, regardless of the students’ confidence in their KSC. Therefore, the students´ being and doing mediates the relationship between the relation of knowing and having the propensity to act for sustainability, which suggests the importance of using such pedagogical approaches and developing students’ intrapersonal competencies for sustainability.

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