UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Planning learning communities : higher education and the transition to sustainability Gudz, Nadine A.

Abstract

Rethinking our organizational learning processes is critical to society's transition to sustainability — a transition from excess success to living respectfully with one another on a planet with finite resources. This thesis promotes the concept of sustainability as a central organizing focus for higher education and draws on theories of organizational learning to help inform the transition. Specifically, the central case study focuses on the University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada's first university to adopt a sustainable development policy and explores how well the policy is implemented in practice. Probing beyond the University's espoused theory in relation to the Policy, to the theory in use, the thesis discusses the barriers to effective implementation, and provides insights into why the University operates as a "knowledge institution" rather than a "learning institution". An embedded case study examines the learning experience of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences at UBC based on the recent transformation of its core curriculum to incorporate sustainability principles. Weaving together principles of sustainability, citizenship education and organizational learning, a vision of sustainable citizenship education guides the discussion. The thesis offers design insights for learning communities which translate the vision into practice, and outlines a series of next steps for the institution. The insertion of vignettes throughout the thesis emphasizes the value of reflection in learning - a crossroads in the research between my learning and the institution's learning.

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