Is there a sustainabilityTPACK?

The TPACK model has proved useful in the past to show the interaction between pedagogy, content and digital technology tools. It can be used constructively as a framework for planning and it can also help to rebut accusations that technology is driving advice about teaching. In the context of helping vocational teachers and trainers to be more sustainable, it may also have the advantage of familiarity.

When changing your pedagogical approach it helps to be aware of the framework in which you are currently operating before you can make a decision to change. And working on the ProfESus pilot  course for vocational trainers to encourage them to develop a sustainable mindset in their students, I began to wonder if it would be possible to extend the TPACK framework to include a sustainable approach. Of course I was not the first to wonder and I discovered that the EPACK model has already been proposed and discussed (see reference at end).

The EPACK model

The E replaces the T where E stands for Environmental perspectives.

So instead of a circle labelled T, we have a circle labelled E which represents the basic sustainability (or Environmental) principles that can affect the way we do things. These could include

  • the 3 Rs of Reduce, Re-use, Recycle or the 6 Rs of Reinvent, Refuse, Reduce, Re-use, Recycle and Replace.
  • the three pillars of sustainability, Economy, Social Justice and Environment
  • the five perspectives of sustainability, Futures thinking, Systems thinking, Strategic thinking, Collaboration and Values thinking
  • alignment to the UNs 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The content circle refers to the subject-specific content, and in the case of vocational training; skills. Perhaps competence would be a better word than content in this case since competence = content + skills + attitudes.

The pedagogical circle refers to decisions made on ways of presenting new knowedge, task type, classroom management, assessment, meta-cognitive approaches such as Visible Thinking.


Where the model becomes interesting is when looking at the overlap areas, especially those involving sustainability. So taking the original TPACK model:

The overlap between Technology and Pedagogy (TPK) becomes the overlap between a sustainable approach and pedagogy (EPK).

Looking at that overlap could help focus on collaborative and complex learning as a way of including the stakeholders that are so important when taking a sustainable perspective. Taking a Visible Thinking approach or adopting project-based learning supports the Systemic approach required for a sustainable perspective. As Zhou points out it also points to promoting interdisciplinary approaches and ways in which that being taught is closer to the lives of students. In the case of vocational students this could be to become closer to their existing or anticipated working lives.

The overlap between Technology and Content Knowledge (TCK) becomes the overlap between a sustainable approach and content knowledge (ECK).

This overlap helps us choose relevant topics or cases. We could for example look at the adoption of various Eco labels or Fair Trade certification as part of the vocational skills needed to run a kitchen, B & B or farm shop. This overlap could also prompt vocational teachers to attend to global and local aspects of what is being learned. It is also a reminder to integrate sustainability into content rather than to present it as an add-on.

Sweet spot

The sweet spot, the overall aim should be to get all three factors aligned in the centre, which now becomes EPACK. The idea of the centre sweetspot is also to ensure a healthy balance between all three aspects. So any vocational skills teacher could take a look at their curriculum, syllabus and individual lesson plans and evaluate how they could move closer to the centre.

What you could do

Look at the last three sessions you taught. Where would you place them on the EPACK diagram? What could you do to make those sessions closer to the centre of the diagram? (Assuming that not all your lessons could be placed in the centre!).


The EPACK model supports the idea that sustainability should be embedded in subject-specific teaching rather than being a separate subject or an add-on. It helps teachers to identify those areas where they could most usefully include a sustainability focus. And finally the model also gives a sweet spot to aim for where content or competence is matched by an appropriate pedagogy and  relevant sustainability aspects.


Educating Science Teachers for Sustainability, edited by Susan Stratton, Rita Hagevik, Allan Feldman, Mark Bloom, Chapter 11 G Zhou “Environmental Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A conceptual framework for teacher knowledge and development” Most of the chapter is available on Google Books

List of sample tasks in the series

An arrow to the future (this post)

Building an ESD FAQ

From 17 to 5: A backcasting strategy

Is there a sustainability TPACK?
(this post)
Staff competences in a sustainable setting

Sustainability Bingo

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