Teaching sustainability: complexity and compromises

Stephanos Anastasiadis, Stephanie Perkiss, Bonnie A. Dean, Leopold Bayerlein, Maria Alejandra Gonzalez-Perez, Alec Wersun, Pilar Acosta, Hannah Jun, Belinda Gibbons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Purpose: Sustainability is one of the leading challenges of our age, and higher education plays a vital role in supporting the implementation of sustainability initiatives. There has been substantial progress in business schools introducing sustainability into courses with extant literature detailing case studies of sustainability education and student perceptions of their learning. The purpose of this paper is to address the gap in literature from educators' perspectives on their experiences of introducing sustainability teaching using specific teaching tools for sustainability. Design/methodology/approach: This paper presents a case study on a sustainability teaching tool, WikiRate, that was embedded into business and management courses at seven higher education institutions from across the globe. Interviews were conducted after course delivery to gain insights into the practical challenges of designing and implementing a sustainability education activity. Findings: The findings show that educators perceive sustainability as a complex issue, presenting a challenge to teaching in university systems whose normative curricula are rooted in instrumental problem-solving. Furthermore, educators described challenges to their own learning in order to implement sustainability into curricula including the need for compromises and adaptions. Originality/value: This empirical study reports on educators' experiences embedding sustainability into their courses through an innovative teaching tool, WikiRate. This paper has implications for reframing how we can approach sustainability education and presents discussion ways to teach complexity without reduction or simplification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-286
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Higher Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 20 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Educator perception
  • Higher education
  • Sustainability education
  • WikiRate


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