This study uses a grounded theory lite approach to investigate the changes in identity of planning and liberal arts students who studied sustainability in a problem-oriented environment. It was found that although the students expressed a moral identity in relation to the environment, that was not translated into shifting beliefs and behaviours. The authors conceptualised an identity dissonance between aspirational moral identities and implicit socialized western middle-class identities and identified an array of coping mechanisms that enabled students to maintain these conflicting identities. Where the planning students primarily utilized threat reduction, bargaining, and hope for technological salvation, the liberal arts students tended towards shifting blame, fatalism, and limited engagement. The differences between the groups were explained in terms of disciplinary orientation and the differences in the pedagogical approach. In response, the authors recommended a more comprehensive, hands-on environmental educational approach geared towards building environmental identities.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was funded by Aalborg University (Denmark) as part of a post-doctoral position at the Aalborg Centre for Problem-based Learning in Engineering Education and Sustainability under the Auspices of UNESCO .
© 2020 The Author(s)