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Kerry Shephard Photo 2BSc(Hons) and PhD (Reading)

Tel +64 3 479 8439

About Kerry

I research higher education. I conceptualise this as a part of the discipline of Education, but with a focus on the functioning of universities and on the nature of learning within this domain. I have a background in a different discipline and my present disciplinary perspective (substantially developed in the past 20 years) has been influenced by, and is grounded in, my prior 25 years of research and teaching as a biologist. I think that higher education as a field of enquiry, as a discourse and as a community of practitioners is defined by the diverse backgrounds of its contributors and this sets it aside from other fields within Education.

. My area of interest lies in the affective domain of attitudes, values, dispositions and behaviours. I am fascinated by these attributes: how learners acquire them; how teachers contribute to their acquisition, deliberately or not; how universities assess or evaluate them; and how we can research them. My major research interest in these regards relates to education for sustainability/sustainable development. As higher education grapples with massification, commercialisation and its role as 'critic and conscience of society' it needs to address how it impacts on future citizens. My research aims to help higher education understand what it is currently doing, why it may need to change and perhaps how to do it. My research approaches include both qualitative and quantitative methodologies to collect empirical data. I co-supervise PhD candidates, examine others and I am a regular reviewer for a wide range of higher education journals. I also teach on higher education pedagogy programmes.


HEDU 504 Academic Leadership in Higher Education
A critical examination of academic leadership using contemporary theories of learning, teaching, mentoring, leadership and change.

Workshops on Critical Thinking, ESD.

Contribution to Otago's Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development.

Research Interests

My interests span policy and practice in higher education, educational development and aspects of student learning. In particular, I have broad interests in 'learning in the affective domain'. (Not what students know, nor what skills they have to put their knowledge to effect; rather what they choose to do with the knowledge and skills they learn.) Key interests include community-engaged learning and teaching, academic integrity, education for sustainability and 'the public understanding of science'. Kerry has a background in the biological sciences and extensive experience as a university teacher and researcher.


I am happy to co-supervise PhD students in my major research areas within the broad area of Policy and Practice in Higher Education and also to co-supervise multidisciplinary educational projects with colleagues in other departments.

Teaching, learning and research resources

Higher Education for Sustainable Development: promoting intellectual independence.

How can higher education contribute to sustainability whilst nurturing and protecting the next generation's right to think independently? Most people in higher education accept that higher education has a responsibility to contribute to the achievement of the sustainable development goals, not only through our research but also through our teaching. Many of those who research in this area suggest that our teaching needs to focus on teaching young people to be sustainable, often by teaching sustainability-related competencies that we assume the students do not already have. I call this Plan A and I wish those who promote it every success. My message, and this series of Podcasts, suggest something different. I doubt that the higher education that I know is either able or willing to teach young people how to be sustainable and I think that transformation in this direction is a long way off.

Plan B suggests that we are able and willing to help young people to develop intellectual independence, that currently this is the best that we can do, and that doing this will take us a long way towards a vision of sustainability that at least some of us share. An international generation of intellectually independent global citizens will be well positioned to make different decisions from those made by preceding generations.

If listening to podcasts is not your thing, you can read about Plan B in:
Shephard, K. (2020). Higher education for sustainability: Seeking intellectual independence in Aotearoa New Zealand. Springer, 163p.


  • The first 7 podcast episodes analyse Plan A; its successes and its problems
  • Episodes 9-11 analyse the possibilities for a Plan B
  • Episodes 8 and 12 take stock of each analysis

If you have already targeted Plan B, you could jump directly to Episode 9.

  1. Introduction
  2. Sustainability as a process or a destination?
  3. About Campus sustainability
  4. University teachers as critic and conscience of society
  5. Environmental education in New Zealand
  6. About the roles and responsibilities of higher education in New Zealand
  7. About global perspectives and competitive individualism
  8. Taking stock of Education for sustainable development currently managed by New Zealand's higher education sector and more widely
  9. What guides our beliefs and actions?
  10. On deep, critical and independent thinking and why it is so challenging for higher education to teach these things
  11. Changing our practices: community engagement, empowering students and knowing if we are on the right track
  12. Future prospects for Education for sustainable development with a focus on promoting intellectual independence and researching our practices

Some references mentioned in the podcasts

Facione, P. A. (1990). Critical thinking: A statement of expert consensus for purposes of educational assessment and instruction. Retrieved July 26, 2019, from

Leopold, A. (1949). A sand county almanac. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Scriven, M., & Paul, R. (1987) Cited by the foundation for critical thinking. Defining Critical Thinking. Retrieved February 21, 2019. critical-thinking/766.

Shephard, K. (2015). Higher education for sustainable development. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Shephard, K. (2016). Discovering tertiary education through others' eyes and words: Exploring submissions to New Zealand's review of its tertiary education sector. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management.

Shephard, K., Bourk, M., Mirosa, M., & Dulgar, P. (2016). What global perspective does our university foster in our students? Environmental Education Research. 13504622.2015.1126806

Shephard, K., & Egan, T. (2018). Higher education for professional and civic values: A critical review and analysis. Sustainability, 10(12), 4442.

Acknowledgement: I emphasise that any points of view expressed in these podcasts are my own, and not necessarily those of my employer, the University of Otago, or of the many wonderful academic colleagues with whom I have researched over the years. To my colleagues, I acknowledge the vital contribution that you have all made to the ways that I currently understand the international mission of education for sustainability. Researching with you all has been a great privilege. The University of Otago is the oldest in New Zealand, and certainly a privilege to work in. This institution has afforded me the opportunity to undertake the research that has led to this book and podcasts, the academic freedom to ensure that my work will contribute to the international public debate on higher education for sustainability and the expectation that I will make my findings and viewpoints known widely. I express here deep gratitude to the University of Otago for its support and encouragement.


Detoni, M., Allan, A., Connelly, S., Summerfield, T., Townsend, S., & Shephard, K. (2024). University teachers’ perspectives on student attendance: a challenge to the identity of university teachers before, during and after Covid-19. Educational Research for Policy & Practice. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s10671-024-09375-6 Journal - Research Article

Shephard, K., Birdsall, S., Eames, C., & Ritchie, J. (2024). Environmental and sustainability education in Aotearoa New Zealand in the context of the sustainable development goals. In M. Rieckmann & R. T. Muñoz (Eds.), World review: Environmental and sustainability education in the context of the sustainable development goals. (pp. 318-337). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. doi: 10.1201/9781003145202-24 Chapter in Book - Research

Shephard, K., & Santhakumar, V. (2023). Universities with a social purpose: Intentions, achievements and challenges. Singapore: Springer Nature, 164p. doi: 10.1007/978-981-99-8960-7 Authored Book - Research

Shephard, K. (2023). Student experiences of higher education for sustainability and for intellectual independence. In C. Baik & E. R. Kahu (Eds.), Research handbook on the student experience in higher education. (pp. 524-537). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar. doi: 10.4337/9781802204193.00047 Chapter in Book - Research

Shephard, K. (2023). Academic identity and “education for sustainable development”: A grounded theory. Frontiers in Education, 8, 1257119. doi: 10.3389/feduc.2023.1257119 Journal - Research Article

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