Sustainability education: What works?

What’s working in sustainability education? Exploring the impacts of online learning on student attitudes, behaviours and norms

Degree type


Closing date

27 March 2023



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Education for Sustainability has a critical role to play in helping us navigate the sustainability crisis. However, to do this, sustainability education must do more than transmit knowledge. Rather, it must empower and motivate students to take action in their own lives and communities.

A key question for sustainability educators, then, is ‘how can we design units that change behaviours (and/or the antecedents of behaviours: knowledge, self-efficacy, and attitudes), so that students can be effective agents for sustainability in their communities’? And a key action for sustainability educators is to evaluate whether units designed to facilitate such changes are successful in doing so.

This project explores these questions, primarily using units offered as part of the University of Tasmania’s Diploma of Sustainable Living. The two units, Backyard Biodiversity and Living with Fire, are fully online and reach a wide audience of non-traditional adult learners. Both are explicitly designed to support students to make changes in their personal lives, utilising a pedagogy of authentic experiential learning grounded in global sustainability concepts.

But are these units achieving their goal of ‘transformative learning’ – do they support students to become agents of change? If so, why and how? What can we learn from these units about creating impactful online learning programs?

In this project, you will use a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods to evaluate the impacts of Backyard Biodiversity and Living with Fire on student attitudes, self-efficacy and behaviours with respect to managing local biodiversity and wildfire. In doing so, you will help fill key knowledge gaps around the effectiveness of online Education for Sustainability. There will also be scope for you to expand your project beyond these two units to investigate broader questions about online sustainability education.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Emily Flies


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $31,500 per annum (2023 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience in a related field such as sustainability education, human geography, environmental psychology or pedagogy, and/or utilising relevant methodologies such as study design, surveys, and qualitative methods

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • A background in sustainability or online education research or practice

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Emily Flies to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. Submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application, you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email by the advertised outcome date.

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