Pedagogical laboratories: A case study of transformative sustainability education in an ecovillage context

Jason Papenfuss, Eileen Merritt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Students, practitioners, and scholars of sustainability education are increasingly calling for divergent curricula and novel pedagogical approaches that cultivate transformation and emancipation at both the individual and institutional levels. For decades, ecovillages around the globe have provided alternatives for sustainable living and many have also developed alternative educational approaches. For this reason, ecovillages can be important learning laboratories for experimenting with sustainability education curricula and pedagogies, allowing scholars to learn across disciplinary, cultural, and worldview boundaries. In the present study, we conducted a descriptive case study of Findhorn Foundation College's 5-week Ecovillage Design Education course. By applying a narrative analysis of archives, field notes, surveys, and interviews, we arrived at 17 different categorical elements across six major themes. Using the field data, we linked these categorical elements to three consistent pedagogical elements: ritual pedagogies, pedagogies of story, and collaborative pedagogies. We conclude by highlighting several inductive themes present in participant data that indicated potential hindrances, constraints, and cautionary tales regarding implementation of these pedagogies in higher education contexts situated in the Global North.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3880
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019


  • Ecovillage
  • Emancipation
  • Higher education
  • Pedagogy
  • Sustainability education
  • Transformation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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