How to teach sustainability – Designing a professional development programme for university lecturers to promote education for sustainable development with a focus on teacher education (Nalele) 

Teresa Ruckelshauß, M. Sc., Prof. Dr. Alexander Siegmund
The goal of the project is to further strengthen the implementation of education for sustainable development (ESD) at universities. Within the scope of the project, a structured, multi-stage professional development programme for the promotion of ESD in university education is designed and realized at different model universities nationwide. The programme includes workshops on basic and advanced level, e-learning, peer-to-peer exchange and individual coaching. 


Education for sustainable development (ESD) has been a central field of action in Germany's sustainability strategy, which was first adopted in 2002, since the beginning of the UN Decade on ESD (2005-2014). Further impetus has been given on the background of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UNESCO World Action Programme "Education for Sustainable Development" (2015-2019) as well as the National Action Plan ESD passed on this basis in June 2017 and the current UNESCO programme “ESD for 2030” (2020-2030). Education that empowers people to shape their thoughts and actions towards a sustainable future is central to sustainable development. The consequences of one's own behaviour for the world are made tangible, enabling people to come to responsible decisions that are in line with sustainable development. 

With this in mind, the competence development of teachers as multipliers is attributed a special role and defined by UNESCO as one of the central goals of the World Action Programme on ESD – in the German National Action Plan ESD, this understanding is transferred to the national level. For the implementation of ESD in different professional fields, but especially in schools, the education of teachers and those who teach them is central. In contrast to ESD-related educational offers for the 2nd phase (traineeship – ‘Referendariat’) and 3rd phase (further education) of school teacher training, there are hardly any structured further education offers for university lecturers on the implementation of ESD in the 1st phase (studies). Thus, it is to be expected that despite the binding anchoring of ESD in teacher training in some areas, there will still be no consistent implementation of the ESD concept in higher education institutions in the future. The same applies to other professional fields of study, in which sustainability is gaining increasing importance. 

In order to support the competence development of teachers in the field of ESD, a structured and staged professional development programme for the promotion of ESD in university teaching, as it is also explicitly demanded in the National Action Plan ESD, is therefore developed and implemented at several model universities nationwide. The concept includes interdisciplinary introductory offers on the basics of ESD, workshops on the implementation of ESD in university teaching for different disciplines as well as individual counselling and support offers (coaching). In the sense of a blended learning approach, these are completed by digital, location-independent further training opportunities. The professional development of lecturers acts as a double lever, in that the concept of ESD can be implemented both directly at the universities and indirectly in the students’ professional fields, above all at the schools. 

"How to teach sustainability" is located in the Department of Geography - Research Group for Earth Observation (rgeo) within the Heidelberg Center of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD Center) at Heidelberg University of Education. It is carried out in cooperation with the Heidelberg Center for the Environment (HCE) at the University of Heidelberg, represented by the TdLab Geography. 
Official project title: 
How to teach sustainability. Promotion of education for sustainable development (ESD) in university teaching - development of cross-university professional development offers and structures with a focus on teacher education at selected universities. 
Current information and dates for the further training courses can be found here

Project period: 01.01.2020 – 30.06.2023 

The nationwide dissemination is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the scope of a project. 

The Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts (MWK BW) and the Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Energy Management (UM BW) Baden-Württemberg are funding the implementation with a project at the state level, partly from ‘Glücksspirale’ funds. 





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