Integrating education for sustainable development in learning development practice within a university humanities and social sciences faculty


  • Rhiannon Parry Thompson Independent (formerly University of Portsmouth, UK)



sustainability, green, embed


This talk focused on a Learning Development (LD) approach to the integration of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in the production and delivery of self-directed and classroom LD resources within a department under a humanities and social sciences faculty. This was partly a response to a recently published framework for ESD in higher education (Advance HE, 2021) which encouraged students and staff, across disciplines and service areas, to identify their potential in advancing sustainability in their institutions and wider communities. ESD as ‘a lens that permits us to look critically at how the world is and to envision how it might be and equips us to deliver that vision’ implements and embeds pedagogies, enabling students to discern their roles in addressing ‘integrity, social justice and economic prosperity’ (Advance HE, 2021).


The role of universities in contributing to the United Nation’s Global Sustainable Development Goals (UNDP, 2022) through research, teaching, skills development, and civic engagement, in positioning ESD strategically across the curriculum, and student expectations around ESD and SDG learning opportunities (SOS-UK, 2020) provided additional context for this session.


The talk included a succinct overview of ESD in higher education and, informed by the author’s practice, a concise explanation of the distinctive role of LD in contributing to the integration of ESD within the formal and informal curricula. This was illustrated by presenting self-produced materials (or, reflecting participatory practice principles, co-produced with students or colleagues), based on a range of sustainability themes, and focusing on such skills areas as critical reflection, communication, collaborative learning and research. The observed impact on students from different subject areas, working collaboratively to apply academic skills to real-world challenges was addressed.

Embedded high-impact ESD in LD fosters students’ green literacy skills, enabling them, when they transition out of higher education, to build, and maintain environmentally and socially just communities and workplaces. A comprehensive resource document, with example material, will be hosted on Learn Higher.

Author Biography

Rhiannon Parry Thompson, Independent (formerly University of Portsmouth, UK)

Rhiannon Parry Thompson is a Learning Development Tutor in a Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty where she engages with students in curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular settings. Rhiannon established and for eight years ran an international students’ book club. With two Portsmouth Learning Development colleagues, she organised a symposium on storytelling for Learning Developers and, for students, workshops involving the use of artifacts and stories to bring their research to life. Rhiannon’s learning development practice includes embedding sustainability into materials production and teaching. Amongst her sustainability related research interests are the co-occurrence of linguistic, cultural and biodiversity loss and solutions.


Advance HE (2021) Education for sustainable development guidance. Available at: (Accessed: 30 September 2023).

Students Organising for Sustainability: UK (SOS UK) (2021) Sustainability skills survey. Available at: (Accessed: 30 September 2023).

United Nations Development Programme (2022) The SGDs in action. United Nations development programme. Available at: (Accessed: 30 September 2023).




How to Cite

Parry Thompson, R. (2023) “Integrating education for sustainable development in learning development practice within a university humanities and social sciences faculty”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (29). doi: 10.47408/jldhe.vi29.1114.

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