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University Students as Change Agents?: A Comparative Study of the Role of Students in Higher Education for Sustainable Development in Germany and Sweden
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences.
2016 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

To readjust the direction of social development and to enable sustainable learning for students at all levels, international policy emphasises the necessity to transform education systems based on a whole institution approach. The idea of involving all stakeholders in the transformation of educational environments shifts the focus of research in connection to education for sustainable development (ESD) also towards the teachers and students as protagonists of didactic situations, in order to gain knowledge on their respective potential to contribute to the desired change of learning and teaching environments.

Concentrating on sustainability-related study programs at leading universities in Germany and Sweden, this comparative case study investigates how different actors in the field conceive of the role of students as change agents in higher education for sustainable development (HESD). Recent research has largely ignored learners as potential initiators of change in this regard. Taking a discourse analytical approach and referring to the concept of different educational traditions in environmental education (EE), the focus of this thesis is on didactic contracts among teachers and students, to analyse how the general organisation of learning as well as the degree to which students apply critical thinking and transformative action in class is perceived by experts, teachers and students themselves. It is investigated if and how active and critical participation on part of the students is actually seen to contribute to changing their own learning environments. The didactical perspective on students as critical change agents, shaping their own learning processes, helps to understand to what extent HESD in these two countries – both considered ‘advanced’ in implementing ESD – allows students to gain the experience of achieving change in learning, fostering their confidence to initiate change outside of academia also. The findings of this research indicate that students are generally expected and seen to act as change agents within their own learning processes. However, it is to emphasise that the degree of change agency on part of the students appears not only to differ between the examined institutions and course formats, but also to be depending on individual personality traits of students and the establishment of a critical learning culture.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. , 69 p.
Examensarbete vid Institutionen för geovetenskaper, ISSN 1650-6553 ; 299
Keyword [en]
Sustainable Development, Sustainability, ESD, Change Agents, Higher Education, Sweden, Germany
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-295858OAI: diva2:935903
Subject / course
Sustainable development
Educational program
Master Programme in Sustainable Development
2016-06-02, Hambergsalen, Villavägen 16, 752 36 Uppsala, Sweden, 11:26 (English)
Available from: 2016-06-13 Created: 2016-06-10 Last updated: 2016-06-13Bibliographically approved

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