EDSL students involved in collaborative learning exercise “Frontpage”.
This school year Wieneke Maris – geography teacher – is taking a sabbatical with her partner Niels – biology teacher – and she is travelling through Europe to discover examples of innovative sustainability education. The world is in an ecological and climate crisis that threatens our future. She worries about this, and for her the best way to deal with that is to contribute to a solution. She visits schools and institutions to learn more about education for sustainable.
Text and photos: Wieneke Maris
I find myself in Hamar, Norway. My wish for this trip is simple: I want to learn more about how we as educators can contribute to a transformation to a sustainable society. The reason we came to Hamar is The Centre for Collaborative Learning for Education for Sustainable Development (CCL) at the Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences in Hamar. This organisation does exactly what I am looking for: it researches, lobbies for, develops resources, and teaches about education for sustainable development. In this blog I want to share some insights I have learned here about sustainability education.
What a dream; a course for teachers, and student teachers focused entirely on teaching for sustainable development. I feel like a kid in a candy store being part, both as an observer and as a teacher, of the course Education for Diversity and Sustainable Living (EDSL), coordinated by the CCL. One of the first EDSL lectures was by Robert James Diham, Centre director and UNESCO chair on Education for sustainable lifestyles. He emphasised thathow we teach about sustainability matters: “In a study of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in 18 countries found that the pedagogies of ESD have had a stronger transformative impact than the curriculum has.” (Laurie et al 2016). In other words, it’s not teaching the content of sustainability, but, especially how we teach that leads to transformation.
Everything is connected, and our behaviour has an impact on the ecosystem of which we are a part. This systems-thinking is one of the meta themes of ESD pedagogy. To teach this, pedagogical approaches require a shift from individual to interconnected learning, from competition between students to cooperative learning in and with nature and the community. Because to create a sustainable society, we need to work together: with each other, and with nature. Or in the words of Naomi Klein: “To change everything, we need everyone.”
As teachers this is not new, but we are practical people and we want to know how to do this. CCL has created a wide array of resources and toolkits for education for sustainable development. Ready to be implemented. For example there is a values based series that aims to inspire people to think about “achievement” and “success” in new ways – rather than measuring success in grades, to think about the values and skills acquired that are needed in order for people and the world to thrive, and to take meaningful action.
Another example that really looks at the underlying causes of our unsustainable way of life is the toolkit: SusTimeAbility. An educational approach full of practical collaborative learning examples to help students understand that how we spend our time has an impact on us and the world. It provides tools for how to shape our use of time to our needs and those of future generations. What strikes me about the resources made by the CCL is that they go beyond other teaching for sustainability resources that are out there. They look into the underlying causes of unsustainability, and provide practical ways to learn in a cooperative way how to live more sustainably.
Teaching for sustainability requires us to think differently about how we teach; elements of these are cooperative learning and education based on whole systems thinking. This may require us as educators to think differently about education and learn a different way of teaching ourselves(Sterling, 2001). My learning journey has started, and I’d like to invite you to join me: Let’s work together on this paradigm shift to create education that builds connections, with each other, with the community and with the Earth.
– Laurie R, Nonoyama-Tarumi Y, Mckeown R, Hopkins C (2016) Contributions of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) to Quality Education: A Synthesis of Research. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development 10(2):226-242. doi:10.1177/0973408216661442
– Sterling S (2001) Sustainable Education – Re-visioning learning and change, Schumacher Briefing no6. Schumacher Society/Green Books, Dartington. ISBN 1 870098 99 4