The Sustainable Human and Environmental Systems Approach to Sustainability Education: Foundational Principles, Pedagogical Strategies, and Administrative Considerations
12 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2023 Last revised: 21 Feb 2023
Date Written: January 31, 2022
Since 2009, the Sustainable Human and Environmental Systems (SHES) Roundtable has been a collaborative forum for college and university faculty and administrators, practitioners, and others from throughout North America and beyond to pursue their commitment to providing students with the knowledge and skills needed to meet the existential sustainability challenges that plague the modern world. The result has been the SHES approach to sustainability education—a living set of recommendations about the pedagogy and administration of interdisciplinary and higher-order, sustainability-focused programs in higher education. The Roundtable's edited book—Education for Sustainable Human and Environmental Systems: From Theory to Practice (Routledge, 2019)—is the most comprehensive summary of the Roundtable's first decade of work. The SHES approach to sustainability education is rooted in a vision, a mission, and a strategic goal. The essence of the SHES vision is a world of sustainable societies. The essence of the SHES mission is to sustain the viability of the human and environmental systems and interactions among those systems on which the realization of the vision depends. The essence of the SHES strategic goal is to bring about and to sustain the types of social learning needed to fulfill the mission. The SHES approach to sustainability education rests on six foundational principles: holism, supradisciplinarity, systems thinking, revealed complexity, social learning, and stakeholder engagement. Although the SHES approach is compatible with many pedagogical strategies, some of them are natural allies in achieving its learning outcomes. They include competency-based education (if properly conceived), backward design, the flipped classroom, project-based learning, and the Socratic method. The SHES approach to sustainability education also is suitable for use in any institutional setting. Yet, certain administrative considerations are likely to warrant special attention when building a SHES-based degree program. They include supporting SHES faculty, supporting SHES program design, and broader institutional support and recognition for the SHES approach.
Keywords: Education, environmental systems, human systems, sustainability, holism
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