Developing a Framework for Sustainability Meta-Competencies

Pennsylvania State University, Stanford University

Publication Release Date: Feb. 26, 2018
Date Posted: April 25, 2018
Submitted by: Rachel Young
Sustainability Topics: Curriculum, Research
Content Type: Publications
Publisher: InderScience Online
Periodical Name: International Journal of Higher Education and Sustainability
Type: Journal Article


Sustainability is a critical issue in higher education curriculum development and organisational culture, yet its contested nature necessitates a shared understanding to support a distinct mission across institutional efforts. Therefore, this work intended to foster a common language for sustainability competencies through an overarching framework that may be applied across university functions. This case study draws upon key informant interviews and focus groups with sustainability experts within and beyond Penn State University faculty and staff. The five meta-competencies in the resulting framework are systems thinking, temporal thinking, interpersonal literacy, ethical literacy and imagination/creativity. The framework assumes certain foundational competencies are also in evidence, including logical thinking, critical thinking, quantitative analysis, reading and writing. The results offer a starting point for future discussion and application of meta-competencies of sustainability; bridge sustainability competencies work in higher education and in workforce development; and identify the role of imagination/creativity as an important sustainability meta-competency.