Community of Practice on Sustainability Teaching

Centring sustainability at the University of Toronto requires critiquing and re-imagining the ways that teaching and learning occurs in higher education. This new Community of Practice (CoP) brings UT faculty and doctoral students together from different programs, faculties and campuses to discuss and critically analyze the what and the how of teaching sustainability.  Comparing and critiquing the development of pedagogy, course curriculum, program design and co-curricular learning opportunities will help to identify promising practices towards transformative and intersectional approaches to sustainability teaching  across the university.

By working collaboratively, this CoP offers faculty members opportunities to explore transformative pedagogies to engage their students in cognitive, affective, and embodied forms of learning. Key to this is centering Indigenous worldviews and ‘Land as first teacher’ in sustainability teaching; when combined with transdisciplinary, equity-focused, and place-based education, transformative pedagogy provides learning that is relational, community-engaged, justice-forward, and action-oriented.

This CoP began in the winter of 2022 with funding from the School of the Environment, and support from the Committee on the Environment, Climate Change and Sustainability, and OISE. It was designated as a Jackman Humanities Institute Working Group for 2022-23. For more information about this CoP, please refer to the 2023 Annual Report.

Organizing Team:

Dr. Michael Classens, Assistant Professor, School of the Environment; Coordinator, Sustainability Certificate
Dr. Hilary Inwood, Coordinator, Sustainability & Climate Action Network and Lecturer, Dept. of Curriculum, Teaching & Learning, OISE
Dr. Liat Margolis, Associate Professor; Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design
Dr. Nicole Spiegelaar, Assistant Professor, Trinity College & School of the Environment; Associate Director, Trinity Sustainability Initiative
Sarah Urquhart, Doctoral Candidate, OISE

Professional Learning Events 2023

Universities worldwide are considering the transformative role they can play in shifting their communities towards sustainability, but what commitment is higher education making to transform its approaches to teaching to align with this? Reflecting on curriculum and pedagogy in university courses will help to avoid replicating the same approaches to teaching and learning that have contributed to the climate crisis in the first place. Dr. Heather Burns (Portland State University) and Dr. Rob VanWynsberghe (UBC) spoke about the potential of transformative pedagogy that is relational, community-engaged, justice-forward, and action-oriented to better align with the principles and practices of sustainability.

Link to video recording  

This in-person  forum/discussion focused on the potential of transformative pedagogy that is relational, community-engaged, justice-forward, and action-oriented to better align with the principles and practices of sustainability. UofT faculty, staff and doctoral students joined in this forum by sharing current examples of how they are implementing transformative learning in sustainability-related programs, courses, or initiatives as a way to inform and inspire one another with practices at UofT. 

Notes from this forum

This in-person retreat day for UofT faculty and doctoral students was organized to mark of the Autumnal Equinox and honour the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. As many of us return to teaching and learning on the St. George campus, this retreat provided an opportunity to learn about, discuss and rethink the spaces around us - the significance of Indigenous histories within the institution and across campus grounds, as well as recent responses to the Truth & Reconciliation Calls to Action for dedicated Indigenous spaces and opportunities to support teaching, research, and community at UofT.  Led by Dr. Jon Johnson and Brooke from First Story.  List of resources from this retreat.


Since catching fire in the late 20th century, the notion of sustainability is now firmly set as a recognizable and necessary design principal in virtually all aspects of modern society, from food to textiles to tourism. Some argue that this dawn of sustainability has been nothing less than revolutionary, while others consider the notion to be vague, easily exploitable, and largely a new packaging of business as usual. In this talk Dr. Loring will ask you to consider that both can be true at the same time. He will discuss how culture and world-view change works, explore the recent trajectory of sustainability, ways that it has been redefined and reimagined over the last few decades, and offer thoughts regarding lessons learned and prospects for the future—such as its relationship with the emerging notion of regeneration.  Register in advance for this webinar, which is organized by UofT’s Community of Practice on Sustainability Teaching.

UofT faculty and doctoral students are invited to this in-person forum to discuss the fall webinar "From Sustainability to Regeneration or Bust?" (taking place on Oct. 30, 2023, led by Dr. Philip Loring). Join colleagues to reflect on Dr. Loring's talk and engage in rich discussion about the implications of sustainability in academia and teaching. A light vegetarian lunch will be provided. The forum is taking place at Trinity College from 12-2 pm. Register here for lunch forum!

Professional Learning Events 2022

Prompted by informal Faculty conversation about the challenges of sustainability teaching, this forum emerged to bring together UofT Faculty across multiple divisions and units to reflection on the what and the how of teaching sustainability in comprehensive, coordinated and transdisciplinary ways. This first event invited interested Faculty to engage in critical discussion and reflection.

Dr. Nicole Bell (Trent University) joined us to share how Indigenous knowledge and worldviews can inform our understanding and teaching of sustainability. Opportunities for how to actualize an ethic of interconnection and responsibility in post-secondary education was discussed in small groups.

Symposium Summary Notes


This panel discussion focused on how intersections with anti-Black racism and Black liberation can strengthen sustainability curricula and pedagogy in courses and programs across multiple disciplines. The panellists included Dr. Fikile Nxumalo, (Assistant Professor, OISE, University of Toronto), Dr. Ingrid Waldron (HOPE Chair in Peace and Health, McMaster University), and Dr. Jennifer D. Adams (Associate Professor, University of Calgary).

Panel Discussion Readings & Resources

Video Recording of the Webinar

UofT faculty & doctoral students attended this in-person forum to continue dialogue on aligning pedagogies used to teach sustainability with equity, inclusion, and transformation, with a specific focus on the larger themes from the last two CoP symposia (Anishinaabe teachings and Black inclusion in sustainability pedagogies).

CoP members interested in Land-based pedagogy, community engaged learning and decolonial practices and gathered at the UofT Scarborough campus for a day of learning and community building. The day began with an opening circle facilitated by members of the Nikibii Dawadinna Giigwag at the UTSC campus farm and learned about agricultural practices from Indigenous Plant and Agricultural Knowledge Keeper Isaac Crosby while harvesting late September vegetables. We followed this by travelling through the valley trail to see UTSC’s vision for creating an edible campus and taking an ecological approach to developing the campus grounds. Along the way, we foraged for seasonal edibles under the guidance of resident experts and brought the harvested and foraged items to the Culinaria Centre. Seasonal foods were prepared collaboratively and enjoyed together. Thank you to all our community partners for your collaboration in making this amazing day possible!

List of Resources from this event

Our students are experiencing ever-increasing levels of eco-anxiety as they grapple with the realities of growing up in a climate crisis. How can we support students’ critical engagement with the complexities of climate justice and sustainability motivated by a sense of hopefulness about their future? Dr. Kari Grain (UBC, author of Critical Hope) and Dr. Elin Kelsey (author of Hope Matters) spoke about their research as part of a panel discussion about the ways in which hope can be manifested to support students’ visioning and actions towards an equitable, just and sustainable planet. 

Link to recording of this webinar

Notes from this panel discussion

How are faculty supporting students to shift from climate anxiety to climate action? Inspired by the November webinar 'Bringing Hope into Sustainability Teaching', this retreat, took place at Trinity College, and aimed to share promising practices in sustainability teaching at UofT, and explore how the narratives of hope and optimism are being brought into sustainability-related education. UofT faculty, staff and doctoral students shared current examples of how they are implementing a pedagogy of hope in sustainability-related programs, courses, or initiatives as a way to inform and inspire one another with practices already in existence at the university.  

List of Resources from this event

Get Involved

We welcome your input and involvement in this Community of Practice.  Send your questions, ideas or feedback about CoP events, or receive info about upcoming events by emailing administrator Sarah Urquhart