Associate Professor Lausanne Olvitt

Editor-in-Chief of Southern African Journal of Environmental Education (SAJEE),
and Masters in Education Programme Coordinator
Doctor Lausanne Olvitt

Contact details: 
Phone: +27(46) 603 8389/90

BA (Univ. of Natal, Pmb); HDE (Univ. of Natal, Pmb); MEd (Environmental Education) (Rhodes); PhD (Rhodes)

Short Biography

Lausanne Olvitt has over 20 years’ experience in the field of environmental education. Currently, she is an Associate Professor of Education, based in the Environmental Learning Research Centre (ELRC) at Rhodes University. Lausanne teaches across a range of environmental education and general education qualifications in the Faculty of Education, and supervises Masters and Doctoral research projects.

Prior to joining Rhodes University in 2004, Lausanne worked as a high school English teacher for several years before joining the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) coordinating Share-Net – a project that developed low-cost, environmental education resources. Lausanne has been an active member of the Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa (EEASA) since 2004, serving on the EEASA Council from 2007 – 2009, editor of the EEASA Bulletin from 2008 – 2009 and most recently as Deputy Editor of EEASA’s academic journal, the Southern African Journal of Environmental Education, from 2015 – 2020.


Lausanne’s research interests are mostly oriented around the ‘fuzzy’, affective dimensions of sustainability learning, justice, care, and social change. If awareness alone doesn’t make us change the way we do things, what does? What is the relationship between the things we care about, the things we know about, and the way we treat people and planet? What kinds of learning processes might strengthen this relationship? These are the kinds of questions that stimulated Lausanne’s PhD research entitled: Deciding and Doing What’s Right for People and Planet: An investigation of the ethics-oriented learning of novice environmental educators (Olvitt, 2012).

Supported by a research grant from the National Research Foundation’s Thuthuka funding mechanism (Round 1: 2016 – 2018 and extended to Round 2: 2019 – 2021), Lausanne’s recent research interests have included the sociomaterial dimensions of ethical deliberation, environmental ethics discourses and, more recently, the relationship between learning processes and the development of ethico-moral agency.

Theoretically, Lausanne’s research and teaching is strongly influenced by social realism (see the work of Margaret Archer), and post-Vygotskian approaches to human learning and development, in particular Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) (see the work of Yrjö Engeström).

Teaching and learning

Lausanne’s understandings of teaching and learning have developed through her experiences of school teaching, adult professional development courses, undergraduate lecturing and postgraduate teaching and supervision.

Presently, Lausanne’s main teaching responsibilities include:

  • MEd (Environmental Education): Co-ordinating the MEd (EE) programme within the ELRC, co-teaching on the programme, and supervising numerous environmental education research projects.
  • BEd Honours: Teaching the year-long ‘Philosophy in Education’ component in the general BEd Honours programme.
  • PGCE: Teaching a module on ‘Philosophy in Education’ to pre-service teachers in the Postgraduate Certificate in Education programme.
  • Research Design Course: Contributing to the Faculty of Education’s week-long course on qualitative research design which is offered twice annually.  



  • Sheraine van Wyk (PhD)
  • Dominique Doyle (PhD)
  • Michelle Heistermann (PhD)
  • Mcebisi Mkaza (MEd)
  • Lisolethu Dlova (MEd)
  • Lameez Eksteen (MEd)


Some of Lausanne’s recent publications are available at:

  2. Masilela, K. P. & Olvitt, L.L. (2020). Transforming Environmental Health Practitioners’ knowledge-sharing practices through inter-agency formative intervention workshops. Studies in Continuing Education

Publication record:

  • Ward-Smith, C., Naidoo, T., Olvitt, L. & Akhurst, J. (2020). Perceived benefits of nature-based experiences as mediators of connectedness with nature: the case of Mystic Mountain. South African Journal of Psychology 1-12.
  • Ward-Smith, C., Olvitt, L.L. & Akhurst, J. (2019) Toward Decolonizing Nature-Based Pedagogies: The Importance of Sociocultural History and Socio-materiality in Mediating Children’s Connectedness-with-Nature. In: Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, A., Malone, K. and Barratt Hacking, E. (eds.). Research Handbook on Childhood Nature: Assemblages of childhood and nature research. Switzerland: Springer. Pp.1-27. ISBN: 9783319672854
  • Olvitt, L., Lotz-Sisitka, H., Læssøe, J. & Jordt Jørgensen, N. (2017). Editorial: Understanding Collective learning and human agency in diverse social, cultural and material settings. Southern African journal of Environmental Education, 34, p. 5-13. https://www/
  • Olvitt, L. (2017) Education in the Anthropocene: Ethico-moral dimensions and critical realist openings, Journal of Moral Education, 46:4, 396-409, DOI:10.1080/03057240.2017.1342613
  • Krasny, M.E., Mukute, M., Aguilar, O., Masilela, M.P., and Olvitt, L. (2017). Community environmental education. In A. Russ & M. Krasny (eds.). Urban Environmental Review. Ithica: Cornell University Press. Pp. 124- 132.
  • Olvitt, L. (2016). The Emergence of Environmental Ethics Discourses in Laminated, Open Systems: Some educational considerations In: L. Price & H. Lotz-Sisitka (Eds.). Critical Realism, Environmental Learning and Social-ecological Change. London: Routledge. Pp. 137 – 158
  • Olvitt, L.(2013). If they care so much, why don’t they do something? Some thoughts on the links between values and actions. Environment, July 2013.
  • Olvitt, L. (2013b).Environmental Ethics as Processes of Open-Ended, Pluralistic, Deliberative Enquiry. In: R. Stevenson; M. Brody, J. Dillon & A. Wals (eds). International Handbook of Research on Environmental Education. American Education Research Association (AERA) & Routledge. Pp. 115 – 121.
  • Olvitt, L.(2013a). The Invisible Mediator: a case study of environmental values and ethical deliberations in workplace and course-based learning processes. Proceedings of the 8th International Conference: Researching Work and Learning.
  • Olvitt, L. (2012b). Ethical Deliberations in Environmental Education Workplaces: A case story of contextualised and personalised reflexivity.  In A. Wals & P. Corcoran (Eds.). Learning for Sustainability in Times of Accelerating Change. Wageningen: Wageningen Academic Publishers. Pp.105 – 120.
  • Olvitt, L.(2012a). Deciding and Doing What’s Right for People and Planet: An investigation of the ethics-oriented learning of novice environmental educators. Unpublished PhD dissertation. Grahamstown: Rhodes University.
  • Olvitt, L.(2010). Ethics-oriented Learning in Environmental Education Workplaces: An activity theory approach. Southern African Journal of Environmental Education,27, pp. 71-90.
  • Rosenberg, E., O’Donoghue, R. & Olvitt, L.(2010). Methods and Processes to support Change-oriented Learning. Grahamstown: C.A.P.E CEP (Rhodes University).
  • Sisitka, H., Ellery, K., Olvitt, L., Schudel, I. & O’Donoghue, R. (2010). Cultivating a Scholarly Community of Practice: Towards intellectual community. Acta Academica Supplementum, 2010(1), 130 – 150.
  • Sisitka, H. & Olvitt, L.(2008). South Africa: Strengthening Responses to Sustainable Development Policy and Legislation. In J. Fien., R. Maclean & M. Park. (Eds.). Work, Learning and Sustainable Development: Opportunities and Challenges. Heidelburg: Springer.
  • Olvitt, L; Lotz-Sisitka, H; & Schudel, I. (2007). Using the Earth Charter as a thinking tool and talking point: Reflections on environmental education courses. In M. Vilela & K. Corrigan (Eds). Good Practices using the Earth Charter. UNESCO/Earth Charter International, Paris. Pp. 137 – 141.
  • Olvitt, Land Hamaamba, H. (2006). Identifying needs and opportunities for local government environmental education and training in South Africa. Southern African Journal of Environmental Education23, 121 - 136.
  • Olvitt, L.; Murray, S.; Robertson, S. and Smuts, D. (2007). Keys to English: Learners’ Book Grade 9. Sandton: Heinemann. 
  • Russo, V. & Olvitt, L.  (2006). Course Materials Development for Adult Learning:A source book for environmental and sustainability education. Howick: SADC REEP / Share-Net.
  • Lotz-Sisitka, H.; Olvitt, L.; Gumede, M. and Pesanayi, T. (2006). History and Context of ESD in Southern Africa: Supporting participation in the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. Howick: SADC REEP. 
  • Burkett, B.;Olvitt, L.; Robertson, S. and Smuts, D. (2006). Keys to English: Learners’ Book Grade 8. Sandton: Heinemann. 
  • Olvitt, L., Malema, V. and Lotz-Sisitka, H. (2004). Analysis of the Education & Training Needs Implied in Selected Key South African Environmental Legislation. Unpublished report for the Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism.
  • Olvitt, L. (2004). The Adaptive Development and Use of Learning Support Materials in Response to the 1stPrinciple of the Revised National Curriculum Statement: The Case of Hadeda Island. Unpublished Masters half-thesis. Grahamstown: Rhodes University.



Last Modified: Mon, 09 May 2022 15:27:30 SAST