30 SES 09, ESE/ESD in the Formal School system and in Higher Education - results and learning experiences
In March 2016, the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) was tasked by the Swedish government to conduct an evaluation of how universities and university colleges promote sustainable development, pursuant to the provisions of the Higher Education Act (1992:1434) introduced ten years earlier, 2006. Sweden differs from other nations (to what can be found in research literature) by incorporating sustainable development within the Higher Education institutions, HEIs Act. Most other national policies about ESD/SD/ESD are recommendations to autonomous universities to work on the implementation. This act is a law to which universities must align. All Swedish institutions are to promote SD. Studies on HEIs guidance to work with SD in other nations is being report through various recent studies, (Cebrian 2018; Marcus, Coops, Ellias and Robinson, 2015; Shepard 2015). Large quantitative studies conclude HEIs teachers hold a positive attitude towards SD implementation although the lack of recognition and understanding of varying world views and disciplinary cultures of education make up barriers for a smooth implementation of SD. Academic development based on moral responsibilities and ethical considerations is suggested to close such gaps by a critical reflection on how transformational change in education is performed (Belinda, Kelly, Cook and White 2015; Holsworth and Thomas 2016). Shepard (2015) shares a similar thought by expressing that HEIs dilemma is to shift from search of SD knowledge to SD values. He means sustainable issues are replete with value based dilemmas that HEIs must embrace if education is to contribute to a sustainable society. These many times complicated connections to the surrounding world is one important part of the Swedish national evaluation.
The evaluation has resulted in a unique and comprehensive data material. The evaluation is not a strict scientific study, due to some lack of thorough theoretical research background. The empirical material could, however, form a basis for numerous interesting studies on, for example, the important factors for successfully working to integrate sustainable development into higher education based on needs as expressed above in Holsworth and Thomas (2016), Shepard (2015). A comparison between nations is also possible to conduct based on the well-developed methodology of self-reporting by HEIs.
The purpose of the evaluation was to contribute with knowledge and a national comparison of HEIs, work with SD, and also to present the results that have been achieved so far. The evaluation was further conducted to give support to the HEIs future development work on SD.
Factors affecting a positive SD implementation due to pre-defined criteria were identified in the evaluation; for example, the significance of management and control, building institutional support and providing support in implementation. Apart from investigated criteria, factors that could be found within the self-evaluation data, and also appointed to affects a positive SD implementation was dealt with in the analysing phase. An example is that several of the large and medium-sized HEIs referred their SD work from teaching- and engineering programmes, which is the only two programmes where sustainable development is included in the national qualitative programme targets. An interesting finding was the link between HEIs rated high in this evaluation, to institutions with an environmental management system (for example ISO14001). A remaining challenge for a majority of HEIs in Sweden is the process of sustainable development in education where the SD perspective is not only accounted for as a specific content in education but also a driving force to reach high quality education and society transformation. The overall results of the evaluation, where SD is particularly seen as a structural construction of education rather than an expressional force to change society is in line with international studies (Shepard 2015).
A self-evaluation was conducted with all 47 HEIs in Sweden, in which they described their implementation of SD within three aspect areas. The first aspect area is Governance and organisation, measuring how well goals are included in all levels of education and how they become established in the HEI. The aspect area also describes how systematic follow-up and development of the SD work is conducted. The second aspect area, Environment, resources and areas concerns aspects as how the HEIs actively works to ensure the educational competence of staff in issues related to SD. Criteria within this aspect also investigate collaboration with students, the labour market and, between different subject disciplines. The third aspect area Design, implementation and outcomes reports on how well the HEIs have incorporated and follow up if SD is designed within courses and programmes. In total, the three aspect areas investigated nine criteria of SD implementation. The criteria were processed to include data on both structural and expressional understanding of SD. An assessment panel of SD experts from ten HEIs has reviewed the self-evaluation criteria. The panel was composed to consist of representatives related to a variety of academic disciplines, students and one labour representative. The academics had different competences and they were for example researchers in educational sciences, engineers in environmental sciences and academic leaders for example one head and one acting head of two universities. This panel identified weaknesses but also looked for good examples and potential areas of development Based on the criteria used, UKÄ presented an overall assessment for each HEI, either reporting a well-developed process for the work for high rated HEIs on SD, or the HEIs work on SD is in need of development for lower rated HEIs. The self-evaluation criteria was based on the expertise within the panel, and demand on conformity in quality evaluations by UKÄ, reviewed by HEIs and finally used in the self-evaluation. The qualitative analysing process following was done by co-coding of the criteria. Each individual HEI was coded by a first evaluator in charge within the panel, cooperating with a co-evaluator. Additional to the criteria special areas that emerged were nominated in the analysing process. Examples of such areas are, the size of institution, educational focus, leadership strategies and HEIs international work. Each proposed evaluation-area was discussed due to its possible effect on SD outcome. The whole assessment group finally approved the total material.
The presentation will have two focuses, first to discuss the results of the national evaluation and second to discuss our working experiences. The results showed that several HEIs have begun SD implementation work. In total, about a quarter of the investigated 47 HEIs have received the higher assessment degree, a well-developed process for their work on SD. The remaining HEIs have received the lower assessment degree in need of development. In the first aspect area, Governance and organisation; approximately half of the HEIs were able to demonstrate set targets of SD. Within the second aspect area, Environment, resources and area results show great differences in how HEIs interact with students and conduct collaborative work with the labour market. Such collaboration is both a positive input to small HEI but also problematic due to lack of critical perspectives (Holsworth and Thomas 2016). More than two thirds of HEIs are judged to have a well-developed process within the third aspect area, Design, implementation and outcomes. However, few of the HEIs gave descriptions e.g. how different lecturers collaborate on courses or synthesis of different subject perspectives. There are, apart from investigated criteria many other issues that are reported as important for HEIs SD implementation. The size of the HEI, the focus on educational programs (theoretical/ vocational), formulations in documents about programme degree standards. These examples show that an evaluation exploring a transformative orientation to sustainability in universities, in the end is a question of loose and tight evaluation framings (Scott, 2015). Finally we would like to discuss the work process. The evaluation format (a thematic self-evaluation) was decided by the authority but the criteria were developed by the panel and adapted to the format. The panel asked the authority e.g. ‘what happen to HEI that have not even begun the process?’
Cebrián, G. (2018). The I3E model for embedding education for sustainability within higher education institutions. Environmental Education Research, 24(2): 153-171. Christie, B. A., Miller, K. K., Cooke, R., & White, J. G. (2015). Environmental sustainability in higher education: What do academics think?. Environmental Education Research, 21(5): 655-686. Holdsworth, S., & Thomas, I. (2016). A sustainability education academic development framework (SEAD). Environmental Education Research, 22(8), 1073-1097. Marcus, J., Coops, N. C., Ellis, S., & Robinson, J. (2015). Embedding sustainability learning pathways across the university. Current opinion in environmental sustainability, 16, 7-13. Shepard, Kerry. (2015) Higher Education for Sustainable Development. Basingstoke: Pallgrave Macmillan. Scott, W. ( 2015). Exploring a transformative orientation to sustainability in universities: a question of loose and tight framings. Environmental Education Research 21(6): 943–953.
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