30 SES 03 B, Diverse Perspectives on Sustainability and Sustainability Education /ESER
This paper argues that, in a world characterised by continual societal change and the emphasis of division, sustainability education can only be effective if it takes a more globally inclusive and longer term perspective. In order to achieve that, three shifts need to occur. Firstly, sustainability education needs to reclaim its original holistic perspective that emphasises the irrevocable interdependence of the human and physical environments. This means that the discipline of Geography is far better placed to house the hub of ESD, rather than an interdisciplinary approach. The initial context for the emergence of the notion of sustainability was one much broader than the environmental context in which it is now often perceived. The 1987 Brundlandt Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (World Commission on Environment and Development WCED, 1987) was a seminal step. Within it, sustainability was a dualised entity; the natural environment was seen as an integral part of human existence, and not some entity that was related, yet divorced, from it. Unfortunately, as a recent European study of ESD schooling illustrated (Jucker & Mather, 2014-2015), there are national differences in the nature of sustainability is conceived, with many viewing ESD primarily in terms of the physical environment. In the early 2000s, the United Kingdom’s national curriculum included ESD elements; Concern was expressed at the time that its implementation in practice was problematic for schools in the UK, largely because of lack of ‘…institutional policy initiatives…’ (Summers, Childs & Corney, 2005, p. 634).
Secondly, sustainability needs to be reconstructed with the long term more in mind rather than the immediacy of contemporary issues. Students cannot be merely taught to consider and evaluate issues of sustainability that relate to the past or present; instead, they need to be taught how to anticipate, analyse and address sustainability concerns in the future, utilising the principle that prevention is better than cure. In that way, they become change agents, not merely receptors of information. That demands the development of critical thinking skills, which, it has been argued, are best developed within and through a discipline-based inquiry teaching and learning approach (Kidman & Casinader, 2017), and in terms of sustainabiity, within a geographical context, in direct contrast to arguments that favour interdisciplinary approaches in sustainability education (e.g. Dillon, 2014-2015)
Thirdly, effective sustainability education needs to be geographically boundless, considered as an important consideration beyond the ‘Western’ or Euro-American sphere in which it has traditionally been conducted. In light of the argument that inquiry and critical thinking are central to effective sustainability education, this requires a conceptual shift, acknowledging that sustainability education that uses inquiry education based on Euro-American conceptions of thinking will have limited application in societies outside that sphere (Kidman & Casinader, 2017). In short, it needs to develop a transcultural context (Casinader, 2014 & 2017).
Consequently, this paper posits that pedagogical approaches in sustainability education that follow the dominant Euro-American intellectual threads of interculturalism and critical thinking tend to be constrained in their geographical application, and therefore less likely to be effective globally. Furthermore, they leave sustainability educators open to criticisms of duplicity, in that, whilst championing the rights of indigenous peoples to cultural sustainability, they are imposing ‘Western’ conceptions of sustainability that may contradict local cultural norms. What is required is a transcultural form of sustainability education that balances the long term needs of the human and physical environments with the integrity of the multiple cultural identities and outlooks that exist, without resorting to cultural relativism. The most effective context for that to occur, it is argued, is within the framework of geographical disciplinary inquiry.
The theoretical contentions in this paper are derived from the confluence of two research threads that underpin the authors’ collective work. (a) A re-evaluation of the notion of sustainability/ the structure of sustainability education The co-authors have an established research and publication collaboration in the area of inquiry teaching and education, especially in Geography, Science and Social Studies/Humanities (Kidman & Casinader, 2017). They argue that the interdisciplinary approach that has been promoted by sustainability educators to date (for example, Dillon, 2014-2015) has substantial limitations and that the people-environment connections in sustainability need to be emphasised. Since the underlying concepts of Geography are based on this interaction, it is natural hub in which to house ESD. Further, critical thinking has more validity and power when applied within the scope of a single discipline; disciplinary integration requires understanding that the form and process of inquiry varies between disciplines, and a clear multi-inquiry literacy – and therefore critical cognition and analysis - on the part of the teacher is required for interdisciplinary approaches (Casinader & Kidman, 2017; Kidman & Casinader, 2017; Ashman, 2017). b) Transculturalism As outlined at ECER (2017) and in various publications (Casinader, 2014, 2016 and 2017), the presenter argues that it is now more appropriate to see issues of cultural diversity in terms of the concept of transculturalism, rather than interculturalism. Within transcultural frames, acknowledgment of cultural variation is accepted and perceived as the normative state (Casinader 2016, 2017; Casinader & Walsh, 2015), and there is not the inherent identification of the ‘Other’ as an issue that is embedded in the notions of multiculturalism and interculturalism. An analysis of the sociology of critical thinking indicates that inquiry teaching and learning cannot be seen as culturally inert (Casinader, 2014; Kidman & Casinader, 2017b). The model of Cultural Dispositions of Thinking (Casinader, 2014) argues that connections between culture and thinking shift over time and space. As such, the path to inquiry should not be restricted to a ‘Western’ or Euro-American conceptualisation of rational thought. Since a person’s decision-making process is informed by how they see the world, a person’s culture influences the way they approach intellectual thought and reasoning. To date, approaches to cultural issues have been addressed using the concepts of multiculturalism and interculturalism, which problematise cultural difference, unlike transculturalism, which normalises difference. Approaches to inquiry teaching and learning, and therefore, critical thinking, have also been influenced by these shifts.
A practical example of how sustainability education might be implemented within the framework of this paper is one where schools provide students with a geographical context for environmental and sustainability education is that it provides the most effective rationale for fieldwork learning in sustainability. Aside from the educational arguments that focus on the learning impact of experiential learning that is encapsulated by fieldwork, geographical field inquiry is ideally suited to the combined human and ecological dimensions of sustainability. The capacity to observe the real world – or a place as it exists in all its interwoven complexities – is at the core of geographical inquiry in all its transcultural variety of people-human interactions, sustainable or not (Casinader, 2017; Foskett, 1999). The authors are intending to disseminate these arguments through several international journal articles across the fields of curriculum, pedagogy, teacher education and professional development, as well as Geography, Science and environmental education, plus a contracted second book on inquiry teaching and learning.
Ashman, G. (2017, December 11th ). Traditional VCE subjects still the most valuable. The Age. Retrieved from http://todayspaper.smedia.com.au/theagedaily/PrintArticle.aspx?doc=AGE%2F2017%2F12%2F14&entity=ar02201&mode=text Casinader, N., & Kidman, G. (2017a). Fieldwork as a vehicle for Sustainability Education: the centrality of geographical inquiry. Paper presented at the 5th Education for Sustainability Asia Conference. Casinader, N. (2014). Culture, Transnational Education and Thinking: case studies in global schooling. Milton Park, Abingdon: Routledge. Casinader, N. (2016). A Lost Conduit for Intercultural Education: School Geography and the Potential for Transformation in the Australian Curriculum. Intercultural Education, 27(3). doi:10.1080/14675986.2016.1150650 Casinader, N. (2017). Transnationalism, Education and Empowerment: The Latent Legacies of Empire. Milton Park, Abingdon: Routledge. Dillon, P. (2014-2015). Education for Sustainable Development in a Cultural Ecological Frame. In R. Jucker & R. Mathar (Eds.), Schooling for sustainable development in Europe : concepts, policies and educational experiences at the end of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (Vol. 6, pp. 109-120). Cham Switzerland: Springer. Jucker, R., & Mathar, R. (Eds.). Schooling for sustainable development in Europe: concepts, policies and educational experiences at the end of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (Vol. 6). Cham Switzerland: Springer. Kidman, G., & Casinader, N. (2017b). Inquiry-based Teaching and Learning across Disciplines: comparative theory and practice in schools. Basingstoke: Palgrave Pivot. Summers, M., Childs, A., & Corney, G. (2005). Education for sustainable development in initial teacher training: issues for interdisciplinary collaboration. Environmental Education Research, 11(5). doi:10.1080/13504620500169841 World Commission on Environment and Development, T. (1987). Our Common Future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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