Sustainable Design Literacy: Developing and Piloting Sulitest Design Module

  • Gavin MellesEmail author
  • Susana Paixao-Barradas
Conference paper
Part of the Smart Innovation, Systems and Technologies book series (SIST, volume 134)


The Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD) decade saw positive changes but also mixed results in higher education. Innovative pedagogies are required to implement education for sustainable development (ESD) and it appears current approaches in higher education are sufficient. ESD is about active teaching and learning approaches that encourage students as the present and future citizens to develop sustainable development literacy and skills through critical reflection and experiential learning. Globally several tests have been developed to assess student literacy as an outcome of their learning. Sulitest® is one of these and aims particularly to respond to the literacy and knowledge requirements of the SDGs while also testing specific discipline knowledge through subtests. In comparison to general sustainable development literacy, sustainability literacy for design disciplines is less well defined. Through literature review and expert discussions, this study identified nine dimensions of knowledge. The authors describe the multi-institutional development and testing of a design submodule through expert consultation. This paper then discusses the results from pilot testing. Limited results from the survey pilot indicate poor knowledge of concepts identified and challenges in identifying and agreeing on relevant knowledge. Based on previous data collection and analysis regarding the design submodule we address the question: “Why do we need to measure sustainable Design knowledge?”


Sustainable design literacy Evaluation Responsible design Design education 



World Design Summit, Cumulus and FFD.


  1. 1.
    Wals, A.E.J.: Sustainability in higher education in the context of the UN DESD: a review of learning and institutionalization processes. J. Clean. Prod. 62, 8–15 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ryan, A., Tilbury, D.: Uncharted waters: voyages for education for sustainable development in the higher education curriculum. Curric. J. 24 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Sylvestre, P., Wright, T., Sherren, K.: Exploring faculty conceptualizations of sustainability in higher education: cultural barriers to organizational change and potential resolutions. J. Educ. Sustain. Dev. 7, 223–244 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Melles, G.: Designing for sustainable development: industrial ecology, sustainable development, and social innovation. In: Jonas, W., Zerwas, S., von Anshelm, K. (eds.) Transformation Design, pp. 166–176. DE GRUYTER, Berlin, München, Boston (2015)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Filho, W.L., Pace, P.: Teaching Education for Sustainable Development at University Level. Springer International Publishing, Cham (2016)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Dale, A., Newman, L.: Sustainable development, education and literacy. Int. J. Sustain. High. Educ. 6, 351–362 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Reid, A., Petocz, P.: University lecturers’ understanding of sustainability. High. Educ. 51, 105–123 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Azapagic, A., Perdan, S., Shallcross, D.: How much do engineering students know about sustainable development? The findings of an international survey and possible implications for the engineering curriculum. Eur. J. Eng. Educ. 30, 1–19 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Christie, B.A., Miller, K.K., Cooke, R., White, J.G.: Environmental sustainability in higher education: what do academics think? Environ. Educ. Res. 21, 655–686 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Stubbs, W., Cocklin, C.: Teaching sustainability to business students: shifting mindsets. Int. J. Sustain. High. Educ. 9, 206–221 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Johnston, A., Leach, R., Sproat, H.: Teaching towards sustainability literacy in art, design and fashion. In: Teaching Education for Sustainable Development at University Level, pp. 221–233. Springer International Publishing, Zurich (2016)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Ramirez, M.: Sustainability in the education of industrial designers: the case for Australia. Int. J. Sustain. High. Educ. 7, 189–202 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Callewaert, J.: Sustainability literacy and cultural assessments. In: Leal Filho, W., Marans, R.W., Callewaert, J. (eds.) Handbook of Sustainability & Social Science Research, pp. 453–464. Springer International Publishing (2018)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Keoleian, G.A., Menerey, D.: Sustainable development by design: review of life cycle design and related approaches. Air Waste. 44, 645–668 (1994)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Ngai, T.K.K., Shrestha, R.R., Dangol, B., Maharjan, M., Murcott, S.E.: Design for sustainable development— Household drinking water filter for arsenic and pathogen treatment in Nepal. J. Environ. Sci. Heal. Part A Toxic/Hazardous Subst. Environ. Eng. 42, 1879–1888 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Kagawa, F.: Dissonance in students’ perceptions of sustainable development and sustainability: implications for curriculum change. Int. J. Sustain. High. Educ. 8, 317–338 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Thomas, A.: Design, poverty, and sustainable development. Des. Issues 22, 54–65 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Ramirez, M.: Commitments of university leaders to the Talloires declaration: are they evidenced in industrial design teaching and learnisng? In: Leal Filho, W., Brandli, L., Kuznetsova, O., Paço, A. (eds.) Integrative Approaches to Sustainable Development at University Level, pp. 225–244. Springer International Publishing, Cham (2015)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Ruff, C.L., Olson, M.A.: The attitudes of interior design students towards sustainability. Int. J. Technol. Des. Educ. 19, 67–77 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of DesignSwinburne UniversityHawthornAustralia
  2. 2.Kedge Design SchoolToulonFrance

Personalised recommendations