30 SES 03 A, Developing and Measuring ESE/ESD Learning Outcomes
Higher Education is considered a key facilitator of a shift towards more sustainable lifestyles. As part of education for sustainable consumption as a subfield of education for sustainable development, higher education for sustainable consumption (HESC) aims to enable people to acquire competences that enable them to shape their consumption practices in a sustainable way (Adomßent et al. 2014). This includes knowledge, values and skills alike. HESC does not convey values or ready-made solutions, but aims to encourage people to reflect on social values and to place them in relation to their own motifs of action and life goals. A distinct feature of competence-based approaches to conceptualize learning outcomes in HESD is that they focus on enhancing individual’s capacity to connect to and act upon knowledges, values and skills to successfully and purposively respond to demands in concrete situations in a specific domain like sustainable consumption. As competence-based approaches put self-reflectivity at their heart, it is not surprising that the search for new teaching and learning approaches to stimulate reflectivity and train learners’ capacity to distance them from, observe, and critically engage with their inner states and perceptions is on the rise.
A concept that reflects this understanding of self-reflectivity is introspection, here defined as the conscious observation of ongoing or recently past subjective experience while knowing that one is making this experience. The subjective experience might be of cognitive (for example thoughts, motivations, moods), somatic or sensory nature. The ability to introspect can then be defined as the ability to consciously observe subjective experience. Mindfulness-based Interventions (MBIs) have turned out to be a promising way for training the ability to introspect. In fact, the cultivation of a “witnessing perspective” (Vago, 2014, p. 30) constitutes the core experience of mindfulness practice, as it is supposed to help to „disidentify from the contents of consciousness and view his or her moment-by-moment experience with greater clarity and objectivity“ (p. 377). Due to its potential to stimulate introspective capacity building, some scholars have recently suggested that mindfulness training might be a promising way for fostering more sustainable consumption behavior (Fischer et al., 2017). By becoming aware of inner states and processes, so it is argued, individuals can be empowered to become conscious of their personal needs and values as well as their drivers in unsustainable consumption routines, thereby opening up more sustainable actions in concordance with prevailing values. In other words, it is assumed that mindfulness training stimulates self-reflectivity, which lies at the center of the concept of key competencies for sustainable consumption (KCSC).
While most competence concepts discussed in HESD stress the role of (self-)reflectivity, there is a surprising absence of a systematic engagement with the practice of introspection, its potential contribution to stimulate competence acquisition, and the interdisciplinary research field studying introspective capacities and how they can be cultivated. Against the provided theoretical background, mindfulness training seems a promising way not only to cultivate introspective abilities, but also to thereby stimulate KCSC. Both concepts intersect when it comes to consumption-related inner states and processes. In this paper, we therefore aim to inquire this intersection and explore the potential contributions that introspection can make to facilitate learning processes in HESC.
Our contribution is based on two qualitative studies, analyzing the effects of two different MBIs. The first MBI set a focus on stimulating the development of KCSC. It is based on an 8-week long mindfulness-based training intervention that was delivered to university students within the framework of the BiNKA project (ESC through mindfulness training, see Stanszus et al., 2017). The second study analyses two seminars run at Leuphana University Lüneburg/Germany during winter term 16/17. The seminars intended to cultivate introspective skills through mindfulness training by focusing on affective-motivational processes as they occurred in relation to the consumption of animal-based foods (see Frank & Fischer, in press). Data collection Study 1: Individual semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 11 out of 76 students participating in the BiNKA MBI. The sample was randomly selected, with an age ranging from 24 to 40 and different study backgrounds. Interviews were supplemented by the student's experience diaries, as well as detailed, written reports by the mindfulness teachers. The semi-structured interviews took place after the students completed the course. Study 2: Students participating in the seminars wrote diaries throughout the entire course direction. 11 out of 55 diaries were randomly selected for the analysis. Data analysis Both studies applied qualitative content analysis (Kuckartz, 2016). For this purpose, a coding scheme encompassing both KCSC and introspective skills was developed. The first part of the coding scheme on KCSC was deduced from Fischer and Barth (2014), resulting in seven main categories and 32 subcategories representing the concept of KCSC. The second part of the coding scheme for introspective skills was inductively generated. Study 1: The analysis was undertaken in three steps. Firstly, the data was coded according to the KCSC scheme, selecting those passages the intervention focused on. Secondly, these passages were coded with the ‘introspective skills’ scheme, thereby extrapolating intersections between KCSC and introspective skills. Thirdly, it was examined whether the resulting codes indicated enhancements in introspective skills and thereby KCSC. Study 2: Data analysis in study 2 followed the same procedure as in study 1, with the only difference that introspective skills were coded first, as these stood on the focus of the seminars. In both studies, the material was coded by two coders independently two times. In the case of differences between the coders, a senior researcher decided upon the case. The third step of the analysis was conducted by two senior researchers.
As the data analysis of both studies is not completed yet, a clear expectation of the research outcome cannot be given. However, both studies seem to provide evidence that mindfulness training helps to cultivate introspective skills and thereby KCSC. Independent research on both interventions suggested that they could stimulate the development of introspective skills (e.g. Stanszus et al., under review; Frank & Fischer, in press). Furthermore, a qualitative study on the BiNKA project provided evidence that the MBI could positively effect people‘s eating behavior toward more sustainable food choices (Stanzus et al., under review). Therefore, there is reason to expect the BiNKA training was also able to stimulate the development of KCSC. Although such evidence does not exist for the second study, current coding results point to the same direction here.
Adomßent, M., Fischer, D., Godemann, J., Herzig, C., Otte, I., Rieckmann, M. and Timm, J.-M. (2014), “Emerging areas in research on higher education for sustainable development e management education, sustainable consumption and perspectives from Central and Eastern Europe”, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 62 No. 1, pp. 1–7. Fischer, D. & Barth, M. (2014). Key Competencies for and beyond Sustainable Consumption: An Educational Contribution to the Debate. Gaia, 23(S1), 193-200. Fischer, D., Stanszus, L., Geiger, S., Grossman, P., & Schrader, U. (2017). Mindfulness and Sustainable Consumption: A Systematic Literature Review of Research Approaches and Findings. Journal of Cleaner Production, 162, 544-558. Frank, P. & Fischer, D. (in press). Introspektion und Bildung für nachhaltigen Konsum:: Ein Lehr-Lern-Format zur systematischen Selbsterforschung in der Auseinandersetzung mit Argumenten zum Konsum tierischer Produkte - Leuphana Universität Lüneburg. In W. Leal (ed.), Nachhaltigkeit in der Lehre: eine Herausforderung für Hochschulen. Wiesbaden, Springer. Kuckartz, U. (2016). Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse. Methoden, Praxis, Computerunterstützung (3., durchgesehene Aufl.). Grundlagentexte Methoden. Weinheim, Bergstr: Beltz Juventa. Stanszus, L., Fischer, D., Böhme, T., Frank, P., Fritzsche, J., Geiger, S., ... Schrader, U. (2017). Education for Sustainable Consumption through Mindfulness Training: Development of a Consumption-Specific Intervention. Journal of Teacher Education for Sustainability, 19(1), 5-21 Stanszus, L., Frank, P. & Geiger, S. (under review). Healthy eating and sustainable nutrition through mindfulness?Mixed method results of a controlled intervention study. AIMS Public Health Vago, D.R. (2014). Mapping modalities of self-awareness in mindfulness practice: a potential mechanism for clarifying habits of mind. Annals of the New York Academy of Science, 1307, 28 – 42
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