Physical education teacher educators’ subjective theories about sustainability and education for sustainable development

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


Purpose: Physical education (PE) and PE teacher education have great potential to target goals that are important from an education for sustainable development (ESD) perspective. However, ESD has not been studied extensively in the PE context. The purpose of this paper is to explore subjective theories of PE teacher educators about the concepts of sustainability and ESD because they are important precursors of implementing ESD in PE teacher education. Design/methodology/approach: This study was conducted using a qualitative cross-sectional design. Subjective theories about sustainability and ESD from N = 9 PE teacher educators from a university in Germany were assessed in a multistage process, including semistructured interviews and the structure-formation technique. Subsequently, subjective theories were analyzed using qualitative content analysis. Findings: The results reveal a wide range of subjective theories about the concept of sustainability. PE teacher educators described the dimensions of the sustainability concept (ecological, economic, social and political) to different depths and placed different emphases in terms of the levels of action needed to reach sustainable development. The subjective theories regarding the concept of ESD mostly include instrumental and emancipatory aspects of ESD. These subjective theories differ in that they emphasize different forms of ESD. Originality/value: To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study is the first of its kind to examine subjective theories regarding the concepts of sustainability and ESD in the context of PE teacher education. This study is one of only a few studies to provide detailed insights into the subjective theories of teacher educators in the area of sustainability and ESD.


Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2022

External IDs

Scopus 85141409970
Mendeley bb99b65a-b4e7-3ef8-b9fb-0f45c28a0415
unpaywall 10.1108/ijshe-06-2022-0186


DFG Classification of Subject Areas according to Review Boards

Subject groups, research areas, subject areas according to Destatis

ASJC Scopus subject areas


  • Education for Sustainable Development, Higher education, Subjective theory, Qualitative content analysis, Physical education, Beliefs, Beliefs, Education for sustainable development, Higher education, Physical education, Qualitative content analysis, Subjective theory

Library keywords