Design Concept

Global ESD is using Design-Based Research to develop Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) programming. Design-Based Research (DBR; DBR Collective, 2003) is an approach within education science that seeks to develop layers of generalizable design principles for teaching and learning, through the iterative implementation and evaluation of these principles across real-world school contexts, through long-term collaborations between researchers and school-based educators, and with an emphasis on pragmatism and workability in real world contexts (Anderson & Shattuck, 2012 ; Cobb et al., 2003).

We have developed a generalized educational design concept as a starting point, from which more specific design principles and content anchors emanate. These help us to develop specific teaching tools, including classroom materials, worksheets, discussion guides, and assessment tools.

Within this broad approach, we are using the Understanding by Design® (UbD) process developed by Wiggins & McTighe (2005) to develop, implement, test, and refine specific units, tailored to specific classroom contexts.

Reflecting on the everyday experience of social behavior in the light of evolution and sustainability

Our design concept links students’ everyday experiences of behavioral variation to relevant behavioral dimensions of sustainability issues, through iterative scaffolding that uses human science research, computer-based simulations, and the linkages provided by analogies, metaphors, models, and narratives of human behavior, as key sources for developing classroom learning materials. By connecting to students’ intuitive, embodied understanding of the behavioral variation that pervades their world, educators can be provided with a powerful toolkit for cultivating more scientifically adequate and more applied understandings of our evolving species and our globalizing society.

The concept also makes explicit the fact that the experiences that students have in their lives and in school emerge from an evolutionary developmental context, and feed into how communities will be shaped in the future. Conversely, reflection, experience, and engagement in sustainable community development shapes part of students’ developmental context.


  • Anderson, T., & Shattuck, J. (2012). Design-Based Research: A Decade of Progress in Education Research? Educational Researcher, 41(1), 16–25.
  • Cobb, P. A., Confrey, J., DiSessa, A. A., Lehrer, R., & Schauble, L. (2003). Design experiments in educational research. Educational Researcher, 32(1), 9–13.
  • DBR Collective (The Design-Based Research Collective) (2003). Design-Based Research: An Emerging Paradigm for Educational Inquiry. Educational Researcher, 32(1), 5–8.
  • Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).