Challenge Lab - Students guiding sustainability transitions in society
Other conference contribution, 2017

The United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development “Transforming our world” with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) devotes SDG 4 specifically to education, but sustainable development is altogether a large societal learning process. Education with its institutions therefore have a key role to play. The different aspects of this role are discussed within Education for sustainable development (ESD). The UN decade for ESD (2005-2014) is now continued with the Global Action Programme on ESD, and several interesting examples of real-world ESD learning environments are developed and realized. Yet, they are rarely evaluated in depth to understand why, how and what kind of learning that occurs. In this paper, Challenge Lab (C-Lab) is analysed, where students are provided support and space to engage with complex real-world sustainability challenges in society. An analytical framework is developed, informed by sustainability, education and learning research to catch essential aspects and ambitions of ESD: expansion, dialogue, values, authenticity, scaffolding, reflection. The results indicate that C-Lab is in line with the ESD ambition, but is more explicit on: perspective awareness, experimentation, leadership and the unique role students can play in society’s transition. Coupling exist between the C-Lab intention and the actual experiences/actions from the students, but further analysis is needed. The backcasting approach followed at C-Lab can be understood as an expansive cycle acknowledging the inherent complexity and uncertainty in the process of creating sustainable futures; initiated by a dialogue around sustainability principles and values serving as a basis for questioning. This gives the expansion a direction toward sustainability, which also are the main characteristics of ESD in general.


John Holmberg

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Johan Larsson

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Den 6:e utvecklingskonferensen för Sveriges ingenjörsutbildningar

Areas of Advance

Information and Communication Technology

Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (SO 2010-2017, EI 2018-)


Building Futures (2010-2018)



Life Science Engineering (2010-2018)

Materials Science

Subject Categories

Educational Sciences

Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Innovation and entrepreneurship

Learning and teaching

Pedagogical work

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