Empowerment for sustainability in higher education through the EYE learning tool

Valentina C. Tassone*, Giel Dik, Thekla Anna van Lingen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: While empowerment for sustainability is considered a major objective within sustainability-oriented educational programs and policies, little is known about the actual process of empowering students for sustainability through higher education. This study aims to explore this field, by introducing the EYE (Educating Yourself in Empowerment) for Sustainability learning tool and by analyzing the effects of its application within a higher education context, including a reflection about key aspects contributing to students’ empowerment for sustainability. Design/methodology/approach: The effects of the EYE tool are analyzed by means of questionnaires. Through a qualitative codification process and quantitative analysis, the authors have reflected on the effects of the EYE tool and on the empowerment process as perceived by the students exposed to the EYE at Wageningen University. Findings: Results suggest that the EYE is a comprehensive and adaptive tool, conducive to empowerment for sustainability. Adopting, only partly, an instrumental approach to education and, largely, an emancipatory one appears to be a possible and successful combination. A key aspect contributing to students’ empowerment for sustainability is the development and execution of a real-life project of own choice. Learning about the diverse worldviews underlying the search for sustainability appears to be an eye opener for the students. Empowerment does not seem to require long-term training. Rather, it emerges and is experienced by university students within a few weeks. Originality/value: This paper introduces a novel tool and discusses insights deriving from the application of this tool. The value of the paper lies in its potential to support educators in reflecting upon and designing their educational strategy for empowering students for sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-358
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Agency
  • Empowerment
  • Higher education
  • Social change
  • Sustainability
  • Transformative learning


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