The Unsuspected Teachers: Environmental Identity and Sustainability Education in the Anthropocene

Open Access
Buckland, Peter Dawson
Graduate Program:
Educational Theory and Policy
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
November 07, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Madhu Suri Prakash, Dissertation Advisor
  • Jacqueline Edmondson, Committee Chair
  • Mindy L Kornhaber, Committee Member
  • Christopher Uhl, Special Member
  • anthropocene
  • climate change
  • ecological literacy
  • sustainability
  • higher education
  • memoir
  • arts-based research
People in higher education institutions are designing, advocating, and implementing curricular changes for sustainability and ecological literacy. This study sought to understand the environmental identities of sustainability education advocates working in higher education. Do they have self-conscious environmental identities? If so, what do those identities entail for their actions, ethics, and professional lives? To answer these questions, I used two research methods. First, using memoir and poetry, I wrote an extended researcher identity piece to investigate the development and facets of my own environmental identity. Second, the study detailed the environmental identities of twelve sustainability education policy entrepreneurs working at two Pennsylvania universities. This information was obtained through semi-structured interviews. The presentation of this study concludes with modest but transformative recommendations to foment a culture that values strong environmental identification and creates positive feedback loops for faculty and staff who work for ecological literacy and sustainability.