Sustainability education at the community college: implication for policy and practice
Sustainability is a relatively new topic that has transcended traditional disciplinary boundaries. Since faculty members have been trained in traditional disciplines, developing curriculum for and teaching sustainability presents both a great opportunity and a challenge. In order to embrace sustainability education and develop and implement new curriculum, faculty members have to expend a large amount of effort and time. Moreover, faculty members require support and help of professional development programs. All these issues and problems demonstrate a need for this research study. The purpose of this study was to analyze the processes and procedures used by a small sample of faculty members of Greenville Community College District (GCCD) to integrate sustainability into the curriculum and classroom. The diffusion of innovation was identified as the conceptual framework, and qualitative case study methodology was used. The findings revealed three major themes why faculty members were interested in sustainability education: love of nature, inherent nature of their discipline, and commitment to issues of equity. The findings revealed that sustainability is taught using pedagogical tools such as experiential learning, problem-based learning, inquiry-based learning, and a heavy focus on research. As lesson plans were developed, appropriate assessment tools were created. The participants interviewed identified several barriers for teaching interdisciplinary courses, among which time constraints and increase in workload emerged as common themes. The study found that strategies for helping mainstream faculty members embrace sustainability education were time, rewards, recognition, support and encouragement, motivation of students, and creating a network of early adopters as mentors.