Sustainability education - ITN

International Thematic Network (ITN) 'Sustainability education – Teaching and learning in the face of wicked socio-ecological problems'


SEDwise logoThis International Thematic Network (ITN) was established with the aim to conceptualise (theoretically) and develop (experimentally) adequate forms of teaching and learning in the face of sustainability issues.

Often characterised as ‘wicked’ or ‘unstructured’ problems, complex sustainability issues prove difficult to solve and give rise to scientific and societal controversies, such as

  • Climate change
  • Loss of biodiversity
  • Resource depletion
  • Gentrification

As neither the existing institutions, frameworks and routines for decision-making nor the application of the available expertise appear capable of democratically tackling such problems, educational institutions – and universities in particular – are called on to contribute to learning our way out of unsustainability.

Yet, also for education such wicked socio-ecological problems bring about major challenges. When the required and available knowledge is uncertain and the desirability of proposed solutions is contested, education cannot be reduced to a matter of teaching and learning the ‘proper’ attitudes, knowledge, behaviour, skills, etc.

Questions and challenges emerging, then, are e.g.

  • How to deal with unstable knowledge and controversy in educational processes?
  • How to move beyond moralising instruction without falling into undue anything-goes-relativism?
  • How to foster creativity and encourage thinking and doing things that have not been done before?
  • How to assess and evaluate ESE? Etc.

Further research and capacity building is required to support educators who are often struggling with the implementation and conceptualisation of sustainability education. 

Therefore, the SEDwise network engages with the frontiers of knowledge in the field of sustainability education research and fosters fruitful interactions between theory and practice, that is, between research, education and services to society.

By bringing together UGent teachers who are strongly engaged in integrating sustainability in their education activities with a selected group of international sustainability education researchers, Ghent University serves as a 'living lab' for innovative experiments with sustainability education in varied curricula and courses.

SEDwise develops diverse activities in the domains of education, research and services to society such as

  • Pilot experiments aimed at integrating sustainability in university education in various fields
  • Workshops and seminars for researchers and educators
  • In-service training for (university educators) and educational policy staff
  • Summer schools for doctoral and master students
  • Action research about integrating sustainability in university education in various fields
  • International conferences - projects of ‘community service learning’
  • Public lectures


Ghent University promoters

  • Thomas Block (promoter, Department of Political Sciences)
  • Gert Goeminne (Department of Political Sciences)
  • An Cliquet (Department of European, Public and International Law)
  • Michiel De Krom (Department of Sociology)
  • Brent Bleys (Department of General economics)
  • Joost Dessein (Department of Agricultural economics)
  • Bea Merckx (Teacher Training Arteveldehogeschool)
  • Michiel Dehaene (Department of Architecture and urban planning)
  • Steven De Meester (Department of Industrial biological sciences)
  • Stefaan De Henauw (Department of Public health)
  • Bart Defloor (Department of General economics)
  • Erik Paredis (Department of Political Sciences)
  • Michel De Paepe (Department of Flow, heat and combustion mechanics)
  • Frank Nevens (Department of Applied biosciences)
  • Angelo Van Gorp (Department of Social work and social pedagogy)
  • Katrien Van Poeck (network coordinator, Department of Political Sciences)

International partners

  • Leif Östman (Uppsala University, Sweden)
  • Heila Lotz-Sisitka (Rhodes University, South-Africa)
  • Jeppe Læssøe (Aarhus University, Denmark)
  • Jonas Andreasen Lysgaard (Aarhus University, Denmark)
  • Arjen Wals (University of Gothenburg & Wageningen University, Sweden & The Netherlands)
  • David O. Kronlid (Uppsala University, Sweden)
  • Eva Friman (Uppsala University, Sweden)
  • Alan Reid (Monash University, Australia)
  • Elsa Lee (University of Cambridge, UK)
  • Marcia McKenzie (University of Saskatchewan, Canada)
  • Johan Öhman (Örebro University, Sweden)
  • Stefan Bengtsson (Uppsala University, Sweden)
  • Michael Håkansson (Södertörn University, Sweden)
  • Luiz Marcelo de Carvalho (Universidade Estadual Paulista, Brasil)
  • Petra Hansson (Uppsala University, Sweden)

More info

SEDwise webpages


Network coordinator

Dr. Katrien Van Poeck
Centre for Sustainable Development
Department of Political Sciences
Ghent University
Poel 16 | B-9000 Ghent
+32 (0)475 59 05 54


Prof. Dr. Thomas Block
Centre for Sustainable Development
Department of Political Sciences
Ghent University
Poel 16 | B-9000 Ghent
+32 (0)9 264 82 08