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Education for sustainable development at the university level : interactions of the need for community, fear of indoctrination, and the demands of work.
Abstract: The goal of this study was to describe the factors that influence education for sustainable development (ESD) in American universities. Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) was employed as the theoretical lens to analyze the activity of ESD (Engestrom & Miettinen 1999). Data were collected by focusing on two university professors through a series of interviews, classroom observations, and artifacts. The findings of the study demonstrated that both professors encountered serious contradictions in their activity of ESD. These contradictions were both contextual and personal in origin and caused the professors to reshape the object of their teaching activity. The contextual contradictions originated from rules of the professors' institution, their inner and outer communities, and the division of labor in their work environment. The thematic analysis of the data revealed that the contextual contradictions included demanding work responsibilities, emphasis on research over teaching, and lack of community to consider teaching in general and specifically for ESD. The personal contradictions arose from the professors' personal philosophies, perspectives, and visions of sustainable development. Again the thematic analysis revealed the personal contradictions arose from the professors' conceptions of teaching and learning, fear of indoctrination, and again lack of community to support the consideration of teaching. Due to these contradictions in their activity systems, both professors narrowed their sustainability objects to address only one side of sustainability paradigm (the science component), changing the outcomes of their teaching activity to that of preparing environmentally informed citizens. While one professor focused on his new object of delivering environmental knowledge, the other professor adopted a mitigation strategy of focusing on the dual object of sustainability and delivering environmental knowledge. The study offers several strategies to resolve the personal and contextual contradictions identified in this study. Specifically addressed are strategies to alleviate their fear of indoctrination and to access surrounding teaching communities. It also offers strategies focusing on contextual contradictions: establishing ESD communities inside the university and changing faculty incentive and reward structures within the university Education for sustainable development at the university level: Interactions of the need for community, fear of indoctrination, and the demands of work. Available from: [accessed Feb 2, 2016].