30 SES 04 A, Higher Education for Sustainability: Session 1
Education for sustainability (EforS) is generally thought to involve some degree of education for particular professional and civic values, attitudes, dispositions and behaviours (leading to, as examples, being environmentally, socially and culturally responsible). Although the application of values-based EforS in higher education is contested (Shephard, Rieckmann and Barth, 2018) and sits uncomfortably with a liberal view of higher education, there are examples of higher-education teaching, research and service activities that do seek affective outcomes and appear to do so in an open, and widely supported, manner. Professional schools within our universities aim to influence the developing values (sometimes styled as attitudes or attributes, or indeed as ‘professionalism’; Wilkinson et al. 2011) of our students to align with those of the professional body involved. Our institutions emphasise academic integrity within our educational programs and many include worthy values in their lists of graduate attributes that are fostered institutionally (often specifying what graduates will respect, or have commitment to, or appreciate). Similarly, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (2017) identifies character traits associated with five dimensions of personal and social responsibility. And many hundreds of higher education institutions around the world have signed the Talloires Declaration, promising to ‘educate [our students] for environmentally responsible citizenship’ (Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future, 1994). These forms of values-education do not solely exist within our institutions for the benefit of our students; they also extend outwards towards our societies: our science communicators wish to change the way that society values science; our epidemiologists encourage citizens to value vaccination; our nutrition experts encourage us all to value healthy diets and exercise.
This presentation describes a conceptual process to review the literature that explores the means by which higher education around the world addresses values-education, mindfully, or unintentionally. The presentation initially situates values and affect within a broad theoretical structure of learning and teaching. It then uses three disciplinary lenses (education, psychology and professional education), in the context of four educational paradigms (situated/experiential learning, role modelling, assessment/evaluation, critical thinking), to explore the theoretical and practical bases of values-education. This conceptual analysis confirms that values are of great interest to higher education, a significant focus within experiential learning and in the context of role modelling, but challenging to define and even more so to assess or to evaluate the attainment of. Our analysis also suggests that critical thinking and critical reflection are themselves closely connected to values and affect. Notably: a disposition to think critically may itself be a necessary prerequisite for self-motivated critical thinking; dispositions, as intended learning outcomes, are firmly situated in the affective domain and not necessarily well understood or appreciated by higher education teachers; and, of paramount importance, as the act of critical thinking guides the beliefs and actions of those who possess a disposition to think critically (Scriven, 1966) other guides to beliefs, values and behaviours (for example in the form of institutional objectives) may be contradictory.
This analysis suggests that higher education confronts a fundamental tension. Institutionally endorsed values-education designed to direct learners towards particular ways of thinking, and towards particular values-based behaviours, appears both inappropriate, if implemented alongside education for critical thinking, and wasteful of effort. Indeed, values-education not targeted at critical thinking may only be compatible with a higher education that does not itself value critical thinking. The presentation ends by exploring the premise that encouraging students to develop a disposition to explore their world critically is a form of values-education; and that this may be the only truly legitimate form of values-education open to higher education.
The conceptual process that underpins the analysis described here was based on an approach to literature review described by Grant and Booth (2009). The ideas described in this presentation developed from a grounded theory of higher education for sustainability established by Shephard (2015), and developed further in a conceptual paper by Shephard and Egan (2018). Much in this submission is drawn from Shephard and Egan (2018) and its presentation seeks to engage EforS research practitioners in discussion on the concepts included within it.
This analysis suggests that if higher education does decide to endorse only that part of values-education designed to support students to develop their own critical disposition, it need not be disinterested in the values that its academics teach or in other respects display, or in the additional values that its students develop. This analysis encourages higher education to be responsible for the cognitive and affective support likely to develop a learner’s critical disposition, and for exposing these same learners to bodies of knowledge and to role models and experiences upon which their critical skills and values can be practised. Monitoring the affective values and attitudes of cohorts of students on their learning journey is not incompatible with these responsibilities and may help institutions to understand if their provisions in these regards are sufficient. Assessing the values of individual students may not be compatible with these same responsibilities. Similarly, accepting and celebrating the affective diversity of its academic staff, and local communities, may be the best way to ensure that students are exposed to role models and experiences upon which students’ critical skills and values can be practised. A higher education institution that values critical thinking, in this analysis, should celebrate the diversity of values that its students are exposed to, as long as sufficient emphasis is placed on values-education for critical thinking, and sufficient monitoring is in place to ensure that this fundamental mission of higher education is on track. This analysis emphasises a pressing need for higher education to develop sound protocols for teaching and for monitoring the development of students’ dispositions to think critically.
Association of American Colleges & Universities (2017) Character Traits Associated with the Five Dimensions of Personal and Social Responsibility; Association of American Colleges & Universities: Washington, DC, USA. Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future (1994) The Talloires Declaration 10 Point Action Plan; Updated Version; Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future: Wayland, MD, USA. European Commission (2019) Responsible research & innovation Retrieved January 26th 2019 from https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/en/h2020-section/responsible-research-innovation Grant, M.J.; Booth, A. A typology of reviews: An analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies: A typology of reviews. Health Inf. Libr. J. 2009, 26, 91–108. Scriven, M. (1966) Student Values as Educational Objectives; Social Science Education Consortium, Inc.: Boulder, CO, USA. Shephard K (2015) Higher Education for sustainable development Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan. Shephard K & Egan T (2018) Higher Education for Professional and Civic Values: A Critical Review and Analysis, Sustainability, 10, 4442; doi:10.3390/su10124442 Shephard K, Rieckmann M & Barth M (2018) Seeking sustainability competence and capability in the ESD and HESD literature: an international philosophical hermeneutic analysis, Environmental Education Research, Online at10.1080/13504622.2018.1490947 Wilkinson, T.J.; Tweed, M.J.; Egan, T.G.; Ali, A.N.; McKenzie, J.M.; Moore, M.; Rudland, J.R. Joining the dots: Conditional pass and programmatic assessment enhances recognition of problems with professionalism and factors hampering student progress. BMC Med. Educ. 2011, 11, 29.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
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