On the need of critical and interpretational competences in the Post-Truth Era

A new article, published in Journal of Cleaner Production, builds upon a sustainability segmentation study of business students. Within a group of 458 students, four different segments were defined: (1) moderate problem solvers; (2) pessimistic non-believers; (3) optimistic realists; and (4) convinced individualists. Moreover, students show complex, layered and multi-dimensional attitudes to sustainability. They tend to like an “a la carte”-mentality to sustainability, in which they can choose which pro-environmental efforts to undertake. The study frames these results within previous clustering efforts, and concludes that a one-fit-for-all approach to acquire sustainability competences is not feasible. Furthermore, in the current Post-Truth Era, critical and interpretational competences (e.g. linked with research competences and information literacy) seem to be essential, yet difficult to integrate in higher education.

Fig 4Figure 1. Segmentation of business management/marketing students


The article has been published Open Access in Journal of Cleaner Production. The abstract and full reference are provided below.


This article adds insights in students’ attitudes toward sustainability, with specific focus on students in business management/marketing. It builds upon a number of conceptual interpretations and barriers for change in higher education for sustainable development, followed by the concept of sustainability competences and the students’ perspectives. A segmentation study is developed in order to frame the variety of student dispositions of sustainability attitudes, based on a survey among 458 students in business management/marketing. Four different segments of students are discovered, according to their attitudes toward sustainability issues: moderate problem solvers; pessimistic non-believers; optimistic realists; and convinced individualists. The results of the segmentation study reveal that a one-fit-for-all approach in acquiring sustainability competences is not feasible. This calls for a diversity in approaches to prepare students in dealing with the complexity and uncertainty of sustainability issues, oriented toward more self-regulated learning, and developing critical and interpretational competences.

Full Reference:

Lambrechts, W., Ghijsen, P. W. Th., Jacques, A., Walravens, H., Van Liedekerke, L., & Van Petegem, P. (2018). Sustainability segmentation of business students: toward self-regulated development of critical and interpretational competences in a post-truth era. Journal of Cleaner Production, 202, 561-570.




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