30 SES 04 A, Whole School Approach to ESD /ESE. Case Studies and Network Development
Research and policy within Environmental and Sustainability Education (ESE) tends to move from a focus on individual teachers and projects to a broader perspective on education where sustainability should infuse the focus of whole schools (Ferreira et al 2006; Sterling 2009; UNESCO 2017). Although several have pointed to challenges introducing a whole-school approach to ESE (Ferreira et al 2006; Hargreaves 2008) the connection between practical sustainable actions and theory still seems to be crucial in order to develop the pupils’ action competence (Mogensen & Schnack, 2010). Developing a whole-school approach to sustainability also challenge the teacher education. This research seeks to explore challenges and possibilities for implementing a whole-school approach to ESE in Norwegian upper secondary schools, and how this knowledge can be used to develop the teacher education.
In Norway, no upper secondary schools have yet adopted this whole-school approach to ESE. Norwegian Universities are currently in a process of establishing “University school cooperation” aiming to increase the cooperation between the teacher education and the schools. One aim of the University school cooperation is to increase the possibility for research and development projects with schools to mutually develop both institutions. The Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) has for more than ten years had an overall policy focusing on educating teachers who can contribute to sustainability. A requirement for schools that want to become University schools for NMBU therefore is that the schools are aiming to integrate a stronger focus on ESE at the whole school. Researchers from NMBU will cooperate with the schools in integrating this approach and also in the teacher education through a research project (ESE in practice). The objective of the study presented in this paper is, in the outset of this University school cooperation, to map the challenges and possibilities to integrate a whole-school approach on sustainability on four University schools. Although much knowledge already exist in terms of challenges of introducing a sustainability focus in schools, we know little about the challenges in a Norwegian context and particularly in upper secondary schools. Conducting this research provided us with an opportunity to get insight into the local challenges of these particular schools and at the same time start the communication between the different stakeholders involved in this project.
The study has been conducted through focus group interviews of leadership, teachers, technical staff and students at the four University schools. Interviews were also carried out of the people responsible for upper secondary schools in the county council who in this case represent the school owner. Overall 12 semi-structured focus group interviews were conducted (Kvale, 2008). The interviews were transcribed in full. The interviews where firstly analyzed through a thematic analyses (Braun & Clarke, 2006) where the transcribed texts were analyzed to find repeating patterns of meaning making related to the research question. The approach can be described as inductive, since the themes identified were closely linked to the data material, but our previous understanding and research interest in ESE also influenced the approach. The analyses were iterative where both researchers read though the transcriptions and identified what topics we found repetitively according to the research question. In the next phase of the analysis we drew a physical map where we identified the different actors that were mentioned in the interviews. These were physical actors, but also policy documents, curriculum, garbage etc. Our interest was to trace the actors to see how they interact and influence each other in promoting and obstructing an implementation of a whole-school approach to ESE.
Our preliminary analysis of the interviews shows nine thematic focus areas that are either repetitively mentioned as obstacles or drivers of implementing a whole-school approach to ESE. These are: 1) teacher autonomy (the leadership at the school want to protect the autonomy of the teachers, and hence do not want to impose a focus area (ESE) on them). 2) The county council’s role as drivers of change (the schools are waiting for them to highlight sustainability as a focus area while they are waiting for signals from the schools). 3) Student democracy (high expectations from teachers and leadership for the students to request an ESE focus, but the student democracy is not well functioning). 4) Recycling and food in the cantina (outsourced and therefore beyond the schools control). 5) External actors (promotes exiting and interesting ESE events, but ideas are not implemented further in the teaching). 6) New curriculum (opens for a stronger ESE focus). 7) Testing (obstacle to an ESE focus). 8) Organizational silos of subjects making transdisciplinary projects difficult 9) Parents (worrying about ESE projects taking up too much time from the teaching of individual subjects). The identification of the nine obstacles and possibilities for implementation of a whole-school approach to ESE shows a positive, but somewhat awaiting attitude to sustainability. All actors are positive to implement a stronger focus on ESE in the schools, but seem to still be “sitting on the fence” waiting for other actors to take action. In the paper the actors and connections between them will be analyzed and discussed. A focus for this analysis will be both to plan further research and development cooperation with the University schools, and to elaborate on how these findings might be used to develop our teacher education to better prepare them to meet these challenges.
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative research in psychology, 3(2), 77-101. Ferreira, J., Ryan, L. and Tilbury, D. (2006) Whole-School Approaches to Sustainability: A review of models for professional development in pre-service teacher education. Canberra: Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage and the Australian Research Institute in Education for Sustainability (ARIES). Hargreaves, L.G. (2008) The whole-school approach to education for sustainable development: From pilot projects to systemic change, Policy and Practice, A Development Education Review (6) Kvale, S. (2008). Doing interviews: Sage. Mogensen, F., & Schnack, K. (2010). The action competence approach and the ‘new’discourses of education for sustainable development, competence and quality criteria. Environmental education research, 16(1), 59-74. Shallcross T., Robinson J. (2008) Sustainability Education, Whole School Approaches, and Communities of Action. In: Reid A., Jensen B.B., Nikel J., Simovska V. (eds) Participation and Learning. Springer, Dordrecht Sterling, S. (2009). Towards Sustainable Education, Environmental Scientist, 18 (1), pp. 19-21 UNESCO (2017). Education for Sustainable Development Learning Objectives. Retrieved Jan 17th 2018 from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002474/247444e.pdf
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