30 SES 01 B, Didactical perspectives in ESE
Faced with persistent socio-ecological problems diverse actors all over the world are engaged in initiatives aimed at fostering sustainability transitions (ST): fundamental changes at the level of complex socio-technical systems (e.g. energy, mobility or agro-food system) (Geels & Schot 2007). STs are long-term processes that change deeply anchored structures, practices and cultures (Paredis 2013). Existing decision-making institutions and routines often prove unable to adequately tackle persistent and complex sustainability problems. Hence, appeals have been made to learning as a vital means for STs which have been described as a matter of ‘learning by doing’ and ‘doing by learning’ (Loorbach 2007). Yet, despite omnipresent references to the importance of learning, the notion is poorly conceptualised and empirical research on how learning actually takes place in concrete ST initiatives is rare (Van Poeck et al. 2018). The aim of this paper is to address this research gap by presenting an analytical framework that can advance much-needed research on learning in STs. More specifically, we focus on advancing didactic research on ‘open schooling’ for sustainability transitions, i.e. education practices in schools and universities that aim to fruitfully connect teaching and learning to identifying, exploring and tackling key sustainability problems in urban and rural communities in collaboration with local stakeholders. Therefore, we combine theories and frameworks from different fields: (1) pragmatist educational theory, (2) sustainability transition studies and (3) didactic research. (1) Drawing on the work of John Dewey (1916, 1938) we conceptualise learning as the outcome of people’s engagement with problematic situations such as sustainability challenges. Learning in STs can thus be seen as a process in which persons and the world transform simultaneously and reciprocally through transaction and experimentation. Experiencing problematic situations regarding how to tackle sustainability challenges, they engage in inquiry. Learning, then, is what happens when this results in a growing, more developed and specific repertoire for action, i.e. better ways of coordinating actions to the environment in relation to a purpose. According to Dewey’s democratic educational ideal, this purpose is not imposed on the learners but takes shape through a process of social intelligence, based on intellectual freedom. In this perspective, learning is not a merely cognitive activity but also involves value judgement, feelings, practical skills, commitment, identity, etc. Investigating whether such learning has occurred, and if so, to what extent, between whom, when, how and what people learned requires analytical tools that allow to open-up the black box of learning processes and to trace connections between process and outcomes. (2) The multi-level perspective (MLP) on STs (Geels 2011) describes a socio-technical system as consisting of three different scale levels: niches in which radical innovations emerge, regimes constituted by dominant structures, cultures and practices and the landscape level of deep cultural patterns, macro-political developments, natural circumstances etc. A transition is viewed as a profound change of socio-technical systems in multiple dimensions (technology, regulation, power relations, discourses on problem definitions and solutions, etc.) resulting from the interaction between the three levels. The MLP allows us to address the complexities of STs and to analytically connect niche developments in local initiatives to the broader context. (3) Research on learning in STs often focusses on non-formal learning. To investigate the specificity of open schooling practices in formal education, we will draw on didactic research. Particularly interesting here is the relation between ‘manners of teaching’ – affected by historical traditions (e.g. Öhman & Östman in press) and the relation with students’ learning. Hence, we approach open schooling initiatives drawing on a transactional didactic theory of sustainability teaching and learning (Östman et al. in press a, b).
Analysing learning processes and outcomes requires explicating the relationships between human action and the context in which it occurs (Wertsch 1998). Cognitivist and sociocultural researchers have debated the advantages and disadvantages of different learning theories (Östman et al. in press a). Cognitivist research has been criticised for failing to account for the institutional and interpersonal influence on learning, e.g. how cultural tools and interpersonal interaction mediate learning. Sociocultural research for overlooking the effect of intrapersonal elements, e.g. individuals’ earlier acquired knowledge, values, etc. Another issue is the lack of consideration of how the material world influences learning and thus deserves more attention in educational theory. Taking into account these arguments, the presented analytical framework investigates learning in STs as a process in which a dynamic interplay between varied factors shapes specific outcomes: (1) intrapersonal factors: the participants’ existing knowledge, previous experiences, opinions, ideas, emotions, routines…; (2) interpersonal factors, i.e. the social interactions between the persons involved in a particular situation: communication, dialogue, negotiation, deliberation…; (3) institutional factors, i.e. the influence of elements beyond the specific interactions in a concrete situation: narratives, cultural traditions, discourses, epistemological beliefs, world views…; and (4) material factors: artefacts, the natural environment, infrastructures, technologies, the body… As separate elements, these factors are recognised as important aspects of learning in STs and have been empirically investigated (Van Poeck et al. 2018). What is lacking and important for progressing understanding of the complexity of open schooling for STs, is to investigate the dynamic interplay between all these factors and how that affects the learning process and outcomes. In order to trace connections between the learning process influenced by these factors and the outcomes of it, we focus the analysis on ‘privileging’. Wertsch (1998) introduced this term to investigate how actions (practical and conversational) in learning processes communicate which knowledge, skills, values etc. are valid and which are not in a given situation. This affects what is taken into account and what is not and thereby governs learning in a certain direction. Certain meanings, questions, artefacts, material objects, bodily movements etc. emerge as reasonable while others are ignored or disregarded. Privileging thus directs learning in a certain direction and towards certain outcomes. Hence, when analysing the mechanisms of learning we need to look at how the interplay between different factors (intrapersonal, inter-personal, institutional and material) influences privileging.
The presented analytical framework allows us to develop an analytical toolbox for empirical investigations of open schooling practices where teachers and students collaborate with local stakeholders on identifying, exploring and tackling key sustainability problems in the local community. Adapting and further developing earlier developed didactical analytical methods in line with the above described framework, we create a tailored toolbox that will be applied to open schooling case studies in schools and universities in Sweden and Belgium. For creating the required sophisticated analytical methods, we draw inspiration from earlier work in didactic research, mainly in science education and environmental and sustainability education research. Practical Epistemology Analysis (Wickman & Östman 2002), for instance, enables an analysis of how meaning is created in learning practices. Transactional Argumentation Analysis (Rudsberg et al. 2013) reveals how people learn from deliberative discussions. Epistemological Move Analysis (Lidar et al. 2006), Ethical Move Analysis (Van Poeck et al. in press) and Political Move Analysis (Van Poeck & Östman 2018) allow to investigate the impact of teachers’ interventions on the direction of learning. Further developing, combining and creating new methods results in a suitable analytical toolbox for empirical analyses of open schooling for STs. This will facilitate knowledge production on the factors that influence learning and, of equal importance, the mechanism of how they do so. This interest is not only driven by scientific motivations but also by a practical professional perspective. Without this knowledge, the learning process remains black boxed and practitioners are left ignorant about how to handle crucial elements that influence learning in view of desired outcomes.
Dewey, 1916. Democracy and Education. An Introduction into the Philosophy of Education. The Free Press. Dewey, 1938. Experience and Education. Touchstone. Geels, 2011. The multi-level perspective on sustainability transitions: Responses to seven criticisms. EIST, 1, 24-40. Geels, Schot, 2007. Typology of Sociotechnical Transition Pathways. Res.Pol., 36, 399-417. Lidar, Almqvist, Östman, 2010. A Pragmatist Approach to Meaning Making in Children's Discussions About Gravity and the Shape of the Earth. Sc.Ed., 94, 689-709. Loorbach, 2007. Transition management, new mode of governance for sustainable development. International Books. Öhman, Östman (in press). Different teaching traditions in environmental and sustainability education. In: Van Poeck, Östman, Öhman (eds.), Sustainable Development Teaching: Ethical and political challenges. Routledge. Östman, Öhman, Van Poeck (in press a). A transactional theory on sustainability learning. In: Van Poeck et al. ibid. Östman, Öhman, Van Poeck (in press b). A transactional theory on sustainability teaching: Teacher moves. In: Van Poeck et al. ibid. Paredis, 2013. A winding road. Transition management, policy change and the search for sustainable development, Thesis. Ghent University. Rudsberg, Öhman, Östman, 2013. Analysing students’ learning in classroom discussions about socio-scientific issues. Sc.Ed., 97(4), 594-620. Van Poeck, Östman, Block, 2018. Opening up the black box of learning-by-doing in sustainability transitions. EIST. Van Poeck, Östman, 2018. Creating space for ‘the political’ in environmental and sustainability education practice: A Political Move Analysis of educators’ actions. EER, 24(9), 1406-1423. Van Poeck, Östman, Öhman (in press). Ethical moves: How teachers can open-up a space for articulating moral reactions and deliberating on ethical opinions regarding sustainability issues. In: Van Poeck et al. ibid. Wertsch, 1998. Mind as Action. Oxford University Press. Wickman, Östman, 2002. Learning as discourse change: A sociocultural mechanism. Sc.Ed., 86, 601-623.
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