Skip to main content

Being Scared is not Enough! Motivators for Education for Sustainable Development


This chapter presents an overview of positive motivators for students, lecturers, and educational managers to prioritize Sustainable Development in education. Very often, we implicitly assume that students and colleagues should all be motivated by the great challenges that the world faces. And if they appear not to react sufficiently to these challenges, we sometimes tend to give these challenges an apocalyptic character. But is this the right motivator for students and colleagues to work on Sustainable Development? We all know that if you only use a stick and no carrot… So why don’t we use more carrots? The bureaucracy that comes with tools for checking/auditing/evaluating the (SD content of) programs/curricula is not particularly a strong motivator for university lecturers. And building courses that add another subject to the erudition of the graduate might not be the right motivators for students that want to make a difference. We are often still in the process of convincing university managers to add SD to the curriculum, convincing colleagues to address SD, and convincing students to pick SD electives and address SD in their projects. How to motivate them to do this when this gives them no direct personal reward and even might increase their workload? The paper will explore options to develop motivating educating by reviewing case studies on educational renewal in four universities. It concludes that there are various options for more motivating education. However, to fully utilize these options, more priority should be given to education.


  • SD motivators
  • Humor
  • Curriculum development

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-02375-5_2
  • Chapter length: 17 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
USD   109.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-319-02375-5
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD   139.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book
USD   199.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  1. 1.

  2. 2.

    Wikipedia presents a thorough overview of the discussions that were triggered by this documentary: (February 11th, 2013).

  3. 3.,

  4. 4.


  • Chesebro, J. L., & Wanzer, M. B. (2006). Instructional message variables. In T. P. Mottet, V. P. Richmond, & J. C. McCroskey (Eds.), Handbook of instructional communication: Rhetorical and relational perspectives (pp. 89–116). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cooper, J. (2007). Cognitive dissonance: 50 years of a classic theory. London: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  • Corcoran, P. B., & Wals, A. (2004). Higher education and the challenge of sustainability. Frankfurt: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • De Werk, G., & Kamp, L. M. (2008). Evaluation of the sustainable development graduation track at Delft University of Technology. European Journal of Engineering Education, 33(2), 221–229.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Deci, E. L., Vallerand, R. J., Pelletier, L. G., & Ryan, R. M. (1991). Motivation and education: The self-determination perspective. Educational Psychologist, 26(3 & 4), 325–346.

    Google Scholar 

  • Desha, C., Hargroves, K., & Smith, M. (2009). Addressing the time lag dilemma in curriculum renewal towards engineering education for sustainable development. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 10(2), 184–199.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Desha, C. (2010). An investigation into the strategic application and acceleration of curriculum renewal in engineering education for sustainable development. Dissertation, Griffith University Brisbane.

    Google Scholar 

  • European Commission, no date, Mobility and Transport, road safety, website February 20th (2013).

  • Hartig, T., Kaiser, F. G., & Bowler, P. A. (2001). Psychological restoration in nature as a positive motivation for ecological behavior. Environment and Behavior, 33(4), 590–607.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Jacobsen, G. D. (2011). The Al Gore effect: An inconvenient truth and voluntary carbon offsets. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 61(1), 67–78.

    MathSciNet  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Lozano, R., Lukman, R., Lozano, F. J., Huisingh, D., & Lambrechts, W. (2013) Forthcoming, declarations for sustainability in higher education: Becoming better leaders, through addressing the university system. Journal of Cleaner Production, 48, 10–19.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mulder, K. F. (2010). Don’t preach. Practice! Value laden statements in academic sustainability education. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 11(1), 74–85.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Pandey, V. C. (2003). Education, planning and human development. Delhi: Isha Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Peet, D. J., Mulder, K. F., & Bijma, A. (2004). Integrating SD into engineering courses at the Delft University of Technology: The individual interaction method. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 5(3), 278–288.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Salcedo-Rahola, B., & Mulder, K.F. (2010). Sustainable development in higher education, what has Europe got to offer? Delft. Available at

  • Salcedo Rahola, B., & Mulder, K. F. (2008). Trends in technological master programs focused on sustainability in Europe. In: Proceedings of the 4th International Barcelona Conference on Higher Education, Vol. 7. Higher education for sustainable development. GUNI. Available at

  • Segalàs-Coral, J. (2009). Engineering education for a sustainable future. Dissertation Barcelona, UPC. Available at

  • Segalàs-Coral, J., & Tejedor, G. (2012). Sustainable technology innovation course. Constructive and community-oriented learning postgraduate education. In: Proceedings of EDULEARN12 Conference, 2–4th July 2012, Barcelona.

    Google Scholar 

  • Segalàs-Coral, J., Benson, P., Esbrí, M. E. (2011). European project semester: 30 ECTS of PBL in sustainability with multicultural and multidisciplinary bachelor students groups. In: International Conference on Engineering Education. ICEE2011: Engineering Sustainability for a Global Economy. University of Ulster, Belfast: Northern Ireland.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thomas, I. (2004). Sustainability in tertiary curricula: what is stopping it happening? International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 5(1), 33–47.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • UNESCO (2002). Education for Sustainability, from Rio to Johannesburg: lessons learnt from a decade of commitment. Paris: UNESCO.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weaver, P., Jansen, L., van Grootveld, G., van Spiegel, E., & Vergragt, P. (2000). Sustainable Technology Development. Sheffield: Greenleaf.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wanzera, M. B., & Bainbridge Frymier, A. (1999). The relationship between student perceptions of instructor humor and students’ reports of learning. Communication Education, 48(1), 48-62.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wilson, G. (2009). The World has problems while Universities have disciplines: Universities meeting the challenge of environment through interdisciplinary partnerships. Journal of the World Universities Forum, 2(2), 57–62.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Karel F. Mulder .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2013 Springer International Publishing Switzerland

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Mulder, K.F., Ferrer-Balas, D., Segalas-Coral, J., Kordas, O., Nikiforovich, E., Pereverza, K. (2013). Being Scared is not Enough! Motivators for Education for Sustainable Development. In: Caeiro, S., Filho, W., Jabbour, C., Azeiteiro, U. (eds) Sustainability Assessment Tools in Higher Education Institutions. Springer, Cham.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-319-02374-8

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-319-02375-5

  • eBook Packages: EnergyEnergy (R0)