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Mr Justin Sharpe

Research interests

Thesis Title: 

Learning to trust: Relational spaces and transformative learning for disaster management across citizen led, professional and humanitarian contexts.


Member of the Contested Development research group. 

On going threats from disaster provide a reminder that human beings need to find ways of living with uncertainty. Learning to cope with both the threat and the actuality of disasters is a great challenge. Resilience and adaptation to climate change indicate processes of flexibility and adjustment. The range of adaptations open to individuals and by extension collectives will be limited in many ways. One important limiting dynamic is associated with capacity to learn, and the depth or superficiality of any learning. This includes the relative capacity individuals hold to deal with the challenges to normality and surprises that disasters bring. This thesis explores different learning contexts and seeks to test the hypothesis that learning outcomes expressed through value and behavioural change are linked to the experience of learning - who learning is shared with, what is being learned and how this is reinforced.


Previous assumptions of education for DRR have ignored the complex nature of individuals while re-enforcing that knowledge deficit is the principal reason for lack of progress in any desired behavioural change.


In particular, how learning is viewed, the role that the learning context and the effectiveness of allowing acknowledgement of automatic response will be analysed in light of the three empirical investigations:


  1. CERT training in Santa Barbara, California;
  2. Humanitarian Organisations involved with disaster response and conflict;
  3. Listos! Community preparedness for Latino community in Santa Barbara, California.


The extent to which the findings from the three empirical contexts exhibit learning intentions, social construction of learning and instances of critical reflection are examined. An argument is made that these are all crucial in enabling true transformative learning and practice to occur. Furthermore, the importance of transformative learning in helping communities adapt and become to resilient to disaster risk, turning them from the realm of the abstract to that grounded in present and future realities of risk.

Biographical details


I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography, King's College London and a member of the Centre for Integrated Research on Risk and Resilience. My PhD research is examining the effect of transformative learning on the long-term cognition and behaviour of individuals towards the disaster risk.

I have been developing curriculum materials that use a range of pedagogies to enable students to access disaster curriculum effectively while allowing them to take responsibility for their own safety and preparedness. The use of multi-media techniques in teaching, learning and sharing of knowledge is used to engage and motivate students in the process of disaster preparation. In 2008 I set up this for educators involved with Disaster Risk Reduction Education (DRRE), which has over 320 members. The continued aim is to share good practice and provide resources and ideas for professionals. New learning resources have included videos, exercises and the creation of a DRR comic strip for use with younger learners.


Academic Papers:
Sharpe, J., (2016). Understanding and unlocking transformative learning as a method for enabling behaviour change for adaptation and resilience to disaster threats. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 17, pp.213-219.

Sharpe, J., (2015) Development Transformative Learning (TL) Process Model. A working paper, Environment, Politics and Development Working Paper Series, No. 70. Online:

Pelling, M., Sharpe, J., Pearson, L., Abeling, T., Gerger-Swartling, A., Forrester, J, and Deeming, H. (2015) Social Learning and Resilience Building in the embrace Framework: A Technical Report emBRACE.

Sharpe, J. and Izadkhah, Y.O. (2014) “Use of comic strips in teaching earthquakes to kindergarten children”. Disaster Prevention and Management, 23 (2), 138-156. Click here>>

Sharpe, J. and Kelman, I. (2011), “Improving the disaster-related component of secondary school geography education in England”, International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 327-343.

Book Chapters:

Sharpe, J., ( 2017) “Learning to be practical: A guided learning approach to transform student community resilience when faced with natural hazard threats”. In Observing the Volcano World: Volcano Crisis Communication Springer DOI10.1007/11157_2017_1

Sharpe, J., Gerger-Swartling,.Å., Pelling, M., and Pearson, L (Forthcoming, 2017) “Social Learning and Resilience Building in the emBRACE Framework”. In Framing Resilience, Wiley.

Sharpe, J and UNESCO Pakistan (2014): Learning about Disaster and Remaining Safe. UNESCO, Pakistan. Produced and distributed by UNESCO in Pakistan and available in PDF format. To download click here>>


Silly Timmy's World: A Disaster Comic for Brave Children. Justin Sharpe.

A fun and funny comic book for children that shows what to do and not to do to prepare for hazards in life.

Presentations (available on Prezi):Sharpe, J. (2017) 

Addressing vulnerability to hazards by challenging what you think you know! Invited talk to the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford on 17/01/17, University of Oxford. DOI:10.13140/RG.2.2.12372.60807 

Sharpe, J. (2015 a) Evolving disaster resilience through transformational learning. Presentation to the Interagency Resilience Learning Group, London March, 2015. DOI: 0.13140/RG.2.1.4104.2402

Sharpe, J. (2015b) Crossing the Chasm: Applying Transformational Learning in Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience contexts. Presentation to King’s Centre for Integrated Research on Risk and Resilience, August 2015. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.3350.5768

May 2015: Presentation to START-DEPP workshop that outlined two potential routes for examining learning capacity, offering ways of moving learning forward through sharing of lessons learned in a culture of openness and reflection in order to transform practice. Presentation: Learning to Evolve: Changing Approaches to Learning.

October 2014: Presentation to King’s Centre for Integrated Risk and Resilience entitled: Surfacing Learning for disaster resilience.

ResearchGate Profile:


Participation in workshop, seminar, course

Excellence in Teaching

Sharpe, J. (Participant)
24 Jun 2015

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in workshop, seminar, course

START DEPP LPRR Learning Workshop

Sharpe, J. (Invited speaker)
18 May 2015

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in workshop, seminar, course

Types of Public engagement and outreach - Public lecture/debate/seminar

Why disaster risk reduction and climate change needs you!

Sharpe, J. (Presenter)
16 May 2017

Activity: OtherTypes of Public engagement and outreach - Public lecture/debate/seminar

Transformative Learning for Disaster Adaptation Resilience

Sharpe, J. (Speaker)
18 May 2015

Activity: OtherTypes of Public engagement and outreach - Public lecture/debate/seminar

Types of External academic engagement - Invited talk

Transformative Learning: Addressing vulnerability by challenging what you think you know!

Sharpe, J. (Speaker)
17 Jan 2017

Activity: OtherTypes of External academic engagement - Invited talk

Using comic strips for disaster risk reduction learning

Sharpe, J. (Speaker)
9 Jul 2014

Activity: OtherTypes of External academic engagement - Invited talk

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