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Sociology: People


Kay Fretwell

Kay Fretwell
Kay Fretwell
Edinburgh UK

I am a 1st year, part-time PhD student. I have a scholarship from the Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society (SAGES) under the research theme "Transformations in Society and Environmental Policy". 

PhD topic

Exploring and Developing Pedagogies of Transformative Sustainability Education (TSE) in Higher Education.

Some say that Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is not going far enough to tackle complex global crises such as climate change, habitat and biodiversity loss, and social inequality. ESD is widely described as transformative, in that it attempts to shape students’ knowledge and behaviour. However, ESD remains small-scale, peripheral, and typically conforms to utilitarian and neoliberal leanings in which economic growth is encouraged and nature is only valued for what it provides to humans.

Recently, a branch of literature has emerged that introduces new visions of Transformative Sustainability Education (TSE). Is this just another buzzword reviving the same old debates, or is it a radical alternative to ESD?

Within the latest theoretical conceptualisations of TSE, I have identified three overlapping dimensions: i. relational; ii. socio-emotional; and iii. subversive. The former takes inspiration from ecological systems and indigenous wisdom and calls for the dismantling of human-nature dualism. The second addresses the discomfort and pain associated with the state of the planet and emphasises the need for courage, compassion, and hope. The third interrogates systemic injustice and the capitalist status-quo, whilst celebrating alternative futures-visioning, collective action, and activism.  

I am interested in exploring whether relational, emotional, and subversive pedagogies can transform students’ sustainability-related assumptions, values, and behaviours.


I intend to explore and develop pedagogies of TSE within existing university sustainability courses. This will involve a longitudinal and experimental methodology, with data collection taking place over four years. I will attempt to quantify the transformation of students’ core sustainability beliefs and behaviours over time using pre-, mid-, and post-course surveys; facilitate course design through participative action research with students and staff; and test pedagogical interventions against a control cohort. 


Dr Rachel Howell

Prof Pete Higgins

Dr Rehema White


MSc Sustainability, Anglia Ruskin University (2017)

BA(Hons) Film and Television Production, Aberystwyth University (2009)


Journal Article:
Fretwell, K., Greig, A. (2019). Towards a better understanding of the relationship between individual’s self-reported connection to nature, personal well-being and environmental awareness. Sustainability, Special Issue: Human Nature Interactions.

Book Review:
Fretwell, K., (2019). Post-Sustainability and Environmental Education: Remaking Education for the Future, edited by Bob Jickling and Stephen Sterling, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. The Higher Education Journal of Learning and Teaching.

Fretwell, K., Croasdale, K. (2017). From art to zoo management: Embedding sustainability in UK higher and further education. NUS.