Sophie Perry

Thesis title:

Education for a livable future: A study of three environmental engagement programmes that seek to bring about change.


Warnings of the catastrophic environmental and societal effects of climate change and biodiversity loss are often accompanied by the argument that education is a crucial tool to help circumnavigate such impending disasters. While it is clear that a radical transformation of a dominant unsustainable societal model is required, it remains unclear how exactly educational activity can disentangle us from current hegemonic priorities and move us toward a sustainable, and necessarily counterhegemonic future.

This thesis explores how education programmes with aims of environmental or social transformation play out as they are translated from ideas into actions and experiences. The empirical data at the heart of this thesis is a multiple case study exploration of three educational programmes, all of which address climate, environmental and sustainability issues in distinct ways across formal and non-formal contexts. The research questions that guided data collection were:

1. How do environmental and sustainability educators conceptualise the role, aims and purpose of their programmes?

2. As programmes are enacted, do their intended aims retain integrity?

3. How are sustainability education programmes experienced by participants?

Qualitative data collection methods were used to gather evidence in response to these explorative research questions. Within each case study, the researcher interviewed both educators and learners, and conducted observations of the programmes in practice. The resulting data, which consisted of interview transcripts and observation field notes, was studied through a process of feminist poststructural discourse analysis. This technique enabled a consideration of how dominant unsustainable discourses and alternative discourses of sustainability interact during the planning, enaction, and participation of sustainability and environmental education, as well as how these discourses act on and are in turn enacted by both learners and educators.

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Perry, S (2023) Doing less to ‘achieve’ more: making the space for transformative environmental education In: Heartwood. (Voices of Environmental Education: Academic Research meets Head, Heart and Hands) Eds: Glackin, M; Hine, S., Perry, S.

Greer, K., Perry, S. Hine, S., Wood, L., & Cini O’Dwyer, L. (2022) Doctoral Research as a Team Enterprise: The continuing legacy of Professor Rosalind Driver. Science Teacher Education (92).

Perry, S. (2022) Environmental and Sustainability Education Research: Moving towards enacting change, In: Challenges for Environmental and Sustainability Research in Times of Climate Crisis. Eds: Deutzkens, N., Van Poeck, K., Deleye, M., Læssøe,J., Lönngren, J., Lotz-Sistika, H., Lysgaard, J., Öhman, J., Östman, L., Vandenplas, E., Wals, A. Universiteit Gent, Gent.

Brown, A., Hurley, M., Perry, S., & Roche, J. (2021). Zines as Reflective Evaluation Within Interdisciplinary Learning Programmes. Frontiers in Education. 6.

Durral, E., Perry, S., Hurley, M., Kapros, E., & Leinonen, T. (2021) Co-Designing for Equity in Informal Science Learning: A Proof-of-Concept Study of Design Principles. Frontiers in Education. 6.

First supervisor:

Melissa Glackin


6- Education, Mind & Society