Sustainability as a Pedagogical Principle in Liberal Arts Education: Explorations from the Foreign Language Classroom

By Maria Alessandra Woolson.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability Education

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published Online: September 8, 2015 $US5.00

Sustainability is a complex concept that integrates multiple areas of study. Its focus lies at the intersection of natural and social systems, which presents significant challenges and exceptional opportunities. While its inclusive nature appears to be at odds with the dominant disciplinary organization of knowledge in higher education, its trans-disciplinary outlook appreciates the interactions across broader domains of knowledge that are necessary for addressing current challenges and innovation. This paper introduces sustainability as the focus of pedagogy in liberal arts education. Particular attention is dedicated to what it means to employ sustainability as a foundational pedagogical principle in the humanities and the social sciences. Three examples, drawn from seven years of teaching Latin American culture and foreign languages at Middlebury College, Vermont, USA, illustrate different areas of learning and discuss how to address the intergenerational obligations of sustainability, as a concept that is concerned with both equity and the integrity of the Earth system. Methodologically, the pedagogical approach promotes systems thinking and the development of skills and knowledge from experiential learning and collaboration. Conceptually, it also challenges critical thinking to embrace critical responsibility, while crossing disciplinary and cognitive bridges to engage the complexity of contemporary issues. Ultimately, sustainability as pedagogical principle is meant to inspire intellectual courage, and to empower students in asking the big questions of tomorrow.

Keywords: Sustainability Pedagogy, Interdisciplinary Education, Latin America, Foreign Language

International Journal of Sustainability Education, Volume 11, Issue 3, September 2015, pp.23-34. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published Online: September 8, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.147MB)).

Dr. Maria Alessandra Woolson

Visiting Instructor, Spanish & Portuguese Department, Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont, USA