image text

Sustainability education with Plymouth Institute of Education (PIoE) 

At PIoE we are committed to sustainable education and are working in support of the international reputation that the University has developed as a lead Higher Education Institution in this area.

Our aim is to embed Education for Sustainable Development across all our our courses, ensuring that all students benefit from an education where social, economic and environmental sustainability is woven into the very fabric of their learning experience, thereby producing graduates who take this learning forward and embed it in their own teaching.

To help us achieve this we have engaged in a co-operative inquiry (Heron and Reason, 2001) research project, the details of which are below.

Co-operative Inquiry Project Team

Using Co-operative Inquiry to Embed Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) across all programmes offered by Plymouth Institute of Education (PIoE)

Plymouth Institute of Education has an established core of excellence in the field of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) here at the University, with a team of champions keen to extend this across our diverse range of programmes, supported by Paul Warwick, the lead for the University’s Centre for Sustainable Futures.

Having been successful in a Pedrio bid for funding, these ESD champions are currently engaged in a co-operative inquiry (Heron and Reason, 2001) project to encourage lecturers in PIoE to introduce their students to aspects of ESD. Alongside the pedagogical focus on promoting ESD, we will evaluate the effectiveness of the co-operative inquiry approach as a mechanism for curriculum and professional development. The outcomes of this project will hopefully be relevant for our teaching and future research methodologies.

The project started in 2015 with various development sessions at Embercombe, a learning centre near Exeter, Devon, whose mission is to:
"inspire a new generation of leaders and change makers to take courageous action for a just, peaceful and sustainable world." 

These sessions focused on introducing ESD to colleagues and students and encouraging them to get involved in our co-operative inquiries. 

Five members of the core project team, with extensive ESD experience in different educational contexts, are facilitating individual co-operative inquiry groups comprising lecturers and students from a range of programme areas. The ideas generated in these groups are feeding into the main co-operative inquiry which will in turn support each of the groups in taking their practice forward.

We now have 4 co-operative inquiry groups focusing on the following:
  • Pedagogic Principles of Sustainability 
  • Learning Outside the Classroom 
  • Social Justice and Sustainability 
  • Embedding ESD in Initial Teacher Education (ITE) across the phases – potentially Early Years, Primary, Secondary, Further Education 
This project is drawing upon the experience of Dr Denise Summers in leading a co-operative inquiry (Summers and Turner 2011) that resulted in embedding ESD in the Further Education PGCE/Cert Ed programmes. Links to the resources developed at that time can be found below, these resources can be used/developed as wished.

As we work through our project, we will share resources we develop, as well as papers/presentations we disseminate about the process.


Heron, J. and Reason, P. (2001) The Practice of Co-operative Inquiry: Research ‘with’ rather than ‘on’ People. In P. Reason and H. Bradbury (eds.), Handbook of Action Research (179-188). London: Sage Publications

Summers, D. and Turner, R. (2011) ‘Outside the green box – embedding ESD through the use of co-operative inquiry.Educational Action Research, 19,4,453-468.