IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Sustainability Across Subjects (SAS)

This project is funded by the Centre for Teachers and Teaching Research. The project runs from October 2021 to August 2022. 


Project lead

Team members


The overall project aim is teacher-led curriculum innovation for more sustainable futures. More immediately, our objective for this seed funding is to produce case study research evidence for a distinctive cross-subject approach to curriculum innovation for sustainability. This is also an approach for teacher professional development, both in initial teacher education and as CPD for experienced teachers. 

Equipping teachers with the tools to develop the curriculum can have a double benefit by first, enhancing curriculum quality ‘locally’ (for their students in their schools) and second, as CPD enhancing teacher expertise and agency in their work. 

The teachers, both novices and the experienced, will be empowered professionally as ‘curriculum makers’ and young people will have better access to the powerful disciplinary knowledge (PDK) relating to sustainable futures that is being produced by research in the university disciplines. 


The approach is to bring student teachers, newly qualified and early career teachers, mentors, teacher educators and academic researchers from different disciplines at UCL together in groups. 

Each group will develop the curriculum by accessing cutting edge disciplinary research (for example in concepts such as ‘the Anthropocene’ and ‘carbon-neutral’) and recontextualising these for the classroom in innovative ways which are powerful at the local level (i.e., as planned and enacted by the teacher with their students’ needs in mind) whilst encouraging cross-subject collaboration. This last aspect is crucially important as issues of sustainability traverse many subject boundaries and require a holistic cross-subject approach. 

The case studies will supply evidence which will provide a proof of concept that we can use to bid for funding to extend the project and to support a wider IOE environmental sustainability programme / centre. 

There will be a small number of collaborative groups, and these will be varied in their make up - some will include student teachers and mentors in different subjects on placement in the same school and others will be wider groups who are working and training in different schools. The groups will be co-ordinated by the IOE project team of teacher educators. 

We plan to research how these groups function by producing case studies. To this end our research question is: 'In what ways can cross-subject, collaborative groups support teacher-led curriculum innovation and professional development for more sustainable futures?' 

Our rationale is firstly, that there is an urgent need for education to address global crises of sustainability, following the UNESCO goal 4.7 (education for sustainability) and the UNESCO progress report (2021) calling for rapid educational innovation. Secondly, we are following a distinctive approach to using subject disciplines for teacher-led, collaborative curriculum development which the GeoCapabilities project has proven effective. 

The research will start by bringing teachers and academics together with an event which shares research, ideas, needs and practical problems. Then teachers write ‘vignettes’ describing the powerful disciplinary knowledge of a theme. For example, themes can be migration, climate change or inequality in cities. Next, teachers develop practical curriculum materials and pedagogies, teach and finally evaluate their curriculum innovations.

Throughout the process, young people’s voices are included and the teachers are supported by one another and by the project team of teacher educators. The GeoCapabilities project showed that teachers highly value the opportunity to collaborate with like-minded colleagues. The university researchers from the disciplines benefit through the impact of their research.