Sustainable Learning and the Sustainable Development Goals

How are they connected?

Sustainable Development Goals LogoSustainable learning advances progress towards the sustainable development goals.

Many people have heard of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 17 SDGs were adopted in 2015 as part of the Sustainable Development Agenda. The 17 goals are an “urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership” to pursue “peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.”

Sustainable Learning refers to educational practices that contribute to a continually evolving, healthy learning ecosystem in which knowledge is co-created and shared in a community.

The return on investment in Sustainable Learning is increasing the value of learning throughout nations and communities because a system perspective is central to the Sustainable Learning Framework.*

*The Sustainable Learning Framework was created by Dr. Diana Woolis and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Embracing sustainable learning empowers educators and learners alike to take action and implement solutions to challenges in rapidly changing environments.

A Healthy Professional Learning Ecosystem

Professional Learning Ecosystem Diagram

Learning design is driven by a teaching philosophy, a clear purpose, evidence-informed methods, and authentic assessment.


Focus on Practice –  A student-centered approach in which students learn about a subject by working in groups to solve an open-ended problem using methods that are typically hands-on.

Rely on Evidence – A teaching practice or approach that is supported by robust and reliable research. Evidence-informed pedagogy facilitates the ability to generalize teaching practices and repeat any instructional approach within various environments and contexts.

Co-Create Content – Use finding and selecting, grouping, and contextualizing, preserving, maintaining, archiving, and sharing digital content as an opportunity for community building, critical inquiry, a platform to demonstrate interpretative and creative abilities, and to develop digital literacies of both faculty and students.

Use Multiple Modalities – Channel information or anything that communicates meaning in some way and enables the use of a combination of text, images, motion, or audio.

Systems Thinking is the discipline of acting with the knowledge that you and your organization’s work are part of a larger learning ecosystem. It calls for using tools and methods designed for working successfully in complex environments of interconnected relationships.


Organize for Collective Impact  – Work together, across silos, sharing information to solve complex problems.

Distributed Leadership – Use organizational structures such as communities of practice and communities of inquiry to define challenges and opportunities and foster innovative solutions.

Design for Complexity – Dynamically adapt instruction, assessment, content, and activities to suit contexts, abilities, or preferences of learners and learning providers.

Teachers and systems of learning use multiple feedback protocols for improving, reframing, and transforming practice and policy.


Start with a Theory of Change – Demonstrate how credible, achievable outcomes, defined with stakeholders, are expected to be achieved over the short, medium, and longer term.

Embed Reflection in Work– Use structured reflection on experience to inform planning and action.

Generate Analytics that Guide Improvement – Provide practitioners access to and use data to improve teaching, policy, methods, tools, and technologies

Assures every participant has the access, support, materials, and safety they need to be active learners, are provided opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, and are included in shaping the learning experience.


Provide Facilitated Discourse – Assure that online discussion (asynchronous and synchronous) has a stated purpose, a facilitator, builds community, asks genuine, open-ended questions, and provides summaries of the exchange.

Use Open Education Resources – Leverage teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation, and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.

Convene Structured Learning in Communities – Communities of Practice are groups of people who come together to improve their practice and co-create knowledge in a structured and facilitated format in which a shared language is used discussion, reflection, and content creation. In teaching, Communities of Inquiry are focused on developing teaching presence, social presence, and cognitive presence.

Provide open systems for online teaching and learning.


Enable Connected Learning Pathways –  Connect courses, people, and resources to develop unique personalized learning pathways.

Co-Design Innovations – Gather users and developers to innovate technology and develop platforms, apps, plug-ins and other augmentations that customize the performance of the technology.

Provide Secure Spaces – Meet established standards for privacy, integrity, availability, and security risk analysis.


Sustainable Learning Framework 1.0

The Sustainable Learning Framework (SLF) provides new ways of working and thinking in education that prepares teachers, schools, systems and communities to thrive in the complex and connected contexts in which they work. It is a source of discovery and problem-solving that enriches learning by applying five disciplines to practice Purposeful Pedagogy, Systems Thinking, Looped Learning, Democratic Engagement and Digital Inclusion. It frames professional learning as both a collaborative and self-directed endeavor. The goal of the SLF is to support educators and systems to produce effective learning outcomes for all.

It is how we foster innovation on a grand scale in diverse settings. As the context of education becomes increasingly complex, educators need flexible approaches to teaching and learning and environments that enable them to be responsive.

The Sustainable Learning Framework helps educators navigate towards their goals, despite the challenges they face daily. The SLF enables inclusive practices, health and well-being, teacher professional development, and more. The power of the SLF process is its integrated practices of collaboration, evidence-based learning, community building and knowledge sharing.

The CPL team is grateful to have learned about the SLF from Dr. Diana Woolis during her tenure at CPL. We seek to carry her vision forward in all CPL projects and through ways of working rooted in the SLF and in community and partnership with diverse education stakeholders.