Transformative education and sustainable tourism: the influence of a lecturer’s worldview

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Boyle, A, Wilson, E, Dimmock, K 2015, 'Transformative education and sustainable tourism: the influence of a lecturer's worldview', Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 252-263.

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Education plays a central role in shaping societal change toward sustainability. The concept of education for sustainability (EfS) draws on transformative ways of teaching and learning, emphasizing critical reflection on values and the active empowerment of students to make change. Underscored by many tenets of critical pedagogy, EfS is centered on an education platform that helps learners to question their values, beliefs, and assumptions. Little research has explored the role of EfS in tourism higher education and how practicing tourism academics integrate “sustainability” into their teaching practice. This article critically analyzes the relationship between tourism lecturers’ understandings of sustainability and the way sustainability is taught and developed through curriculum. Adopting a conceptual framework of “weak to strong sustainability,” this qualitative, interpretive study explored the ideological perspectives of sustainable tourism lecturers. In-depth interviews were held with 31 Australian tourism academics who were involved in teaching sustainable tourism. The findings revealed quite marked ideological differences in how lecturers positioned and taught sustainable tourism, ranging from a “weaker” economic emphasis to a “stronger” sociocultural/environmental focus. It was also evident that tourism lecturers who held a strong sustainability perspective were more likely to engage with transformative tenets of political agency, critical reflection, and activism in tourism higher education.

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