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What is sustainable learning?

The concept of sustainability is interpreted in many different ways and contexts, such as environmental and cultural sustainability.
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The concept of sustainability is interpreted in many different ways and contexts. For example, we use it in terms of environmental sustainability and cultural sustainability, among many others. Here, we will explore these terms in a little more detail.

What does the concept of sustainability mean for teaching and learning?

There are many different views on what the term “sustainable” might mean in this context, and some reach out to broader aspects of sustainability than we cover here, such as sustainable learning environments, or just learning about sustainability, so bear in mind that you may see other points of view expressed in this area of research and practice.

Learning that lasts

From our perspective, the key feature of sustainable learning is that it creates “learning that lasts” (Graham, Berman & Bellert, 2015). There are two aspects to this. One is the idea that the learning that takes place in formal education has lasting value to the learner in the future. The other is that it encourages students to continue their learning journey, to embrace lifelong learning. This ties in well with United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number four, which is to “Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning”.

Hays and Reinders (2020) also bring in the idea that sustainable learning and education should instill in students the desire to contribute positively to making the world a better place. So, as well as giving students future-focused skills and experiences, we also need to give them the awareness and confidence to be able to drive positive change.


Graham, L., Berman, J. & Bellert. A (2015). Sustainable Learning: Inclusive Practices for 21st Century Classrooms. Cambridge University Press.
Hays, J. & Reinders, H. (2020). Sustainable learning and education: A curriculum for the future. International Review of Education, 66, 29–52.

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