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Enabling change in universities: enhancing education for sustainable development with tools for quality assurance.
Turku (Finnland)
Doctoral thesis
Abstract: Enabling Change in Universities: Enhancing Education for Sustainable Development with Tools for Quality Assurance
This thesis deals with enabling change in universities, more explicitly enhancing education for sustainable development with tools for quality assurance.

Change management is a discipline within management that was developed in the 1980s because business changed from being predictable to unpredictable. The PEST mnemonic is a method to categorize factors enabling change; such as political, economic, socio-cultural and technological factors, which all affect higher education. A classification of a change, in either hard or soft, can help understanding the type of change that an organization is facing. Hard changes are more applied to problems that have clear objectives and indicators, with a known cause of the problem. Soft changes are applied to larger problems that affect the entire organization or beyond it.

The basic definition for sustainable development is: the future generations should have similar opportunities as the previous. The UN has set as a global goal an integration of education for sustainable development (ESD) at all levels of education during 2005- 2014. The goal is set also in universities, the graduates of which are future leaders for all labor markets. The objective for ESD in higher education is that graduates obtain the competence to take economic, social and environmental costs and benefits into account when making decisions. Knowledge outcomes should aim for systematic and holistic thinking, which requires cross disciplinary education. So far, the development of ESD has not achieved its goals. The UN has identified a need for more transdisclipnary research in ESD.

A joint global requirement for universities is quality assurance, the aim of which is to secure and improve teaching and learning. Quality, environmental and integrated management systems are used by some universities for filling the quality assurance requirements.

The goal of this thesis is to open up new ways for enhancing ESD in universities, beyond the forerunners; by exploring how management systems could be used as tools for promoting ESD.

The thesis is based on five studies. In the first study, I focus on if and how tools for quality assurance could be benefitted for promoting ESD. It is written from a new perspective, the memetic, for reaching a diversity of faculty. A meme is an idea that diffuses from brain to brain. It can be applied for cultural evolution. It is a theory that is based on the evolutionary theory by Darwin, applied for social sciences. In the second Paper, I present the results from the development of the pilot process model for enhancing ESD with management systems. The development of the model is based on a study that includes earlier studies, a survey in academia and an analysis of the practice in 11 universities in the Nordic countries. In the third study, I explore if the change depends on national culture or if it is global. It is a comparative study on both policy and implementation level, between the Nordic countries and China. The fourth study is a single case study based on change management. In this study, I identify what to consider in order to enable the change: enhancing ESD with tools for quality assurance in universities. In the fifth Paper, I present the results of the process model for enhancing ESD with management systems. The model was compared with identified drivers and barriers for enhancing ESD and for implementing management systems. Finally, the process model was piloted and applied for identifying sustainability aspects in curricula.
Action research was chosen as methodology because there are not already implemented approaches using quality management for promoting ESD, why the only way to study this is to make it happen. Another reason for choosing action research is since it is essential to involve students and faculty for enhancing ESD. Action based research consists of the following phases: a) diagnosing, b) planning action, c) taking action and d) evaluating action. This research was made possible by a project called Education for Sustainable Development in Academia in the Nordic countries, ESDAN, in which activities were divided into these four phases. Each phase ended with an open seminar, where the results of the study were presented. The objective for the research project was to develop a process for including knowledge in sustainable development in curricula, which could be used in the quality assurance work. Eleven universities from the Nordic countries cooperated in the project. The aim was, by applying the process, to identify and publish examples of relevant sustainability aspects in different degree programs in universities in the Nordic countries. The project was partly financed by the Nordic Council of Ministers and partly by the participating pilot universities.

Based on the results of my studies, I consider that quality, environmental and integrated management systems can be used for promoting ESD in universities. Relevant sustainability aspects have been identified in different fields of studies by applying the final process model. The final process model was compared with drivers and barriers for enhancing ESD and for implementing management systems in universities and with succeeding with management systems in industry. It corresponds with these, meaning that drivers are taken into account and barriers tackled. Both ESD and management systems in universities could be considered successful memes, which can reflect an effective way of communication among individuals. I have identified that management systems could be used as tools for hard changes and to support the soft change of enhancing ESD in universities with management system. Based on the change management study I have summarized recommendations on what to consider in order to enable the studied change.

The main practical implications of the results are that the process model could be applied for assessment, benchmarking and communication of ESD, connected to quality assurance, when applied. This is possible because the information can be assembled in one picture, which facilitates comparison. The memetic approach can be applied for structuring. It is viable to make comparative studies between cultures, for getting insight in special characteristics of the own culture. Action based research is suitable for involving faculty. Change management can be applied for planning a change, which both enhancing ESD and developing management systems are identified to be.
Inhaltsverzeichnis :

List of original papers

Executive summary

Tiivistelmä (Executive Summary in Finnish)

1. Introduction
1.1. Prephase
1.1.1. Ab Utbildning Sydväst
1.1.2. Preliminary PhD plan
1.1.3. Novia University of Applied Sciences
1.1.4. Final PhD plan
1.1.5 The ESDAN project
1.2. Theoretical framework
1.2.1. Change management
1.2.2. Education for sustainable development, ESD
1.2.3. Quality assurance
1.2.4. Quality, environmental and integrated management system
1.2.5. ESD and tools for quality assurance as change in universities

2. The structure of the thesis
2.1. Earlier studies
2.2. The core problems

3. Action based research as methodology
3.1. Diagnosing
3.1.1. Develop a vision for change
3.1.2. Gain commitment to the vision
3.2. Planning action
3.3. Taking action
3.4. Evaluating action

4. Results

5. Discussion
5.1. Practical and theoretical implications
5.2. Further research

6. Conclusions



Appendix A - Survey about ESD at universities
Appendix B - Development of the pilot process
Appendix C - Benchmarking methods for enhancing ESD, which were in use at the 11 pilot universities

Original papers
Original-Quelle (URL):
Datum des Zugriffs: