Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Stephanie Kaza

Second Advisor

Thomas R. Hudspeth


As societies embrace notions of sustainability, there is an increasing interest in how to best educate students about these concepts. The field of sustainability education (SE) is an approach that has been developed to address this concern. SE frameworks seek to integrate into curricular contents and formats within campus learning environments, in order to systematically improve upon approaches and services developed to support student learning and development. My research offers insight into the relationships between the philosophical principles and praxes of sustainability education, with the aim to inform educators on how best to prepare students to address complex sustainability issues.

I used three cases of University of Vermont courses and programs to explore theoretical and practical factors related to sustainability education and food systems, as follows: 1) a comparative analysis of Education for Sustainability (EfS) together with Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Education, 2) an integration of High Impact Educational Practices (HIEP) with the field of agroecology education, and 3) an in-depth program analysis that examined the role of HIEP in engaged learning alongside the EfS framework.

I drew from two action research (AR) traditions that determine particular research methodologies for applied social research settings. The first is a systems approach to organizational learning, and the second is teacher research for curricular and program development. I also engaged in utilization-focused evaluation (UFE) with program stakeholders. Research methods included applied social and mixed methods associated with program evaluation. Three main research implications include: a) Agroecology education in experiential, immersion environments can serve as a primary vehicle for sustainability education; b) sequencing of food systems and sustainability curricula can lead to transformative learning; and c) AR and UFE can serve as tools for program development alongside sustainability education frameworks.



Number of Pages

283 p.