Education for Sustainable Development

The students / learners should be given the opportunity to deal critically with the various sustainability challenges and to relate the various Sustainability Goals to one another.

This promotes and demands, among other things the following generic (key) competencies for students / learners, as they are also described in the context of the Dublin Descriptors (cf. Bologna Process), the National Qualification Framework (NQF) and the European Qualification Framework (EQF):

System Thinking competency

Recognize and understand connections

Analyze complex systems

Understanding how systems are embedded in different domains and different scales

Dealing with uncertainties

Anticipatory competency

Understand and evaluate the future, create own visions

Apply the precautionary principle

understand and assess the consequences of actions

Normative competency

Understand and reflect the norms and values ​​of one's own behavior

Negotiating sustainability values, principles and goals in the context of conflicts of interest, uncertain knowledge and contradictions

Strategic competency

Collective development and implementation of innovative measures that promote sustainability

Collaboration competency

Learning from others

Empathy and reflective understanding of the needs, perspectives and actions of others

Empathic leadership skills

Competence to deal with conflicts in groups / teams

Enabling collaborative and participative problem solving

Integrated problem-solving competency

Competence to apply different problem-solving strategies for complex sustainability problems and to develop beneficial, inclusive and fair solutions.

Critical thinking skills

Questioning practices and norms against the background of one's own values,

Norms and actions.

Positioning in the (sustainability) discourse

Self-competency (self awareness)

Knowledge of your own role in the (sustainability) discourse.

Evaluation of one's own actions against the background of one's own feelings and wishes


Examples of learning objectives, learning settings and methods

On the specific information pages of the individual 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), learning objectives, content, approaches and methods that can contribute to achieving the respective SDGs are described as examples.

The examples given come from UNESCO (2017): Education for Sustainable Development Goals, Learning Objectives and must be understood as suggestions.


They are formulated in such a way that they can be adapted by the teachers to contexts and learning settings, but also to the intended level.

For each SDG, learning objectives are described in a cognitive, socio-emotional and behavioral domain.

Cognitive learning objectives

Knowledge and cognitive skills necessary to better understand the specific SDG and the challenges associated with achieving it.

Socio-emotional area

Social skills that make it possible to work together, communicate and negotiate in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal

Self-reflection, attitudes, motivation for personal development

Behavioral learning objectives

Action competencies that promote the achievement of the SDG

Topics (content)

Outline of exemplary topics and contents of the specific SDG

Methods (pedagogical approaches)

The exemplary learning objectives of the individual SDG cannot be seen in isolation. They are related to the overarching topic of sustainability or to the associated “mindset”.

Key methods

Collaborative projects in serious situations such as service learning projects and campaigns for various SDGs

Methods for developing future designs such as future workshops, scenario analyzes, utopian / dystopian narratives, science fiction thinking as well as prognoses and backcasting

Analyzes of complex systems through participatory research projects, case studies, stakeholder analyzes, actor analyzes, modeling, system games, etc.

Critical and reflective thinking through fish bowl discussions,

Learning diaries etc.


Achieving the Goals

Education for Sustainable Development is essential for achieving the SDGs. It can enable learners / students to understand the sustainability goals in their complexity and also makes a contribution to achieving them. The UNESCO (2017) Education for Sustainable Development Goals, Learning Objectives, describes the educational approach required for this as action-oriented, transformative and learning outcome-oriented.

Preparing learners for disruptive thinking and the co-creation of new knowledge can also be described as a task of education.

Sustainable development can also be described as a learning process. As a learning process, it has to be repeatedly questioned and further developed. Suitable methods for learning about the Sustainable Development Goals encourage both a critical discussion of the content/topic and the learning process itself.

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