Journal of Social Sciences

Education to Face the Wicked Challenges of Sustainability

Bland Tomkinson

DOI : 10.3844/jssp.2011.1.5

Journal of Social Sciences

Volume 7, Issue 1

Pages 1-5


Problem statement: The nature of sustainable development requires new paradigms for education. Issues of sustainability are ‘wicked problems’ that do not lend themselves to conventional didactic approaches. The challenge for higher education is to examine interdisciplinary approaches to global societal responsibility and, within this, issues of education for sustainable development. Approach: A project, sponsored by the Royal Academy of Engineering, developed a course unit in sustainable development across several disciplines. The approach was initially pedagogic in nature, with a strong evaluative theme. At the same time, a Delphi study was undertaken by the same team and this inter-relates with the main project. The focus of the action research was a series of ‘wicked’ problems that would provide real-world challenges with no simple answers. Results: The project was evaluated in a number of ways, not least the pre-and post-testing of students’ attitudes and approaches, but also using nominal group techniques. The project demonstrated that an interdisciplinary PBL approach succeeded in deepening the learning of the students as well as developing key skills. Conclusion: The use of collaborative, group-based approaches, notably PBL, offers a key way of approaching the design of curricula for sustainable development and other areas of global societal responsibility that hinge on ‘wicked problems’.


© 2011 Bland Tomkinson. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.