30 SES 13 B, Education policy and governance for sustainability
In this paper, we illustrate how the nature of certain concepts widely used to regulate research-policy relationships in the field now known as environmental and sustainability education (ESE) has been changing, particularly since the introduction of performance-based research funding systems in the UK and Scandinavia. While the norms behind these concepts and systems have been increasingly hitched to a wagon called “impact”, in the case of ESE, the field’s researchers can find themselves wanting to pursue this differently, but simultaneously, discovering they are also approximately 10-15 years behind other fields in terms of understandings and debates about the “quest for impact”. (This includes capacities to adapt to or challenge its value.) We argue that this is because as Ball and Exley (Exley, 2010) have quipped, ‘ideas have careers’. In the ‘distinctive and misaligned cultures’ of research and policy, not all are seen to have rigour, relevance or usefulness for policymaking, let alone fostering healthy relationships between these two cultures (Orland, 2009) or are capable of addressing sustainability challenges. Yet as Lotz-Sisitka (2016) argues for ESE practitioners, researchers and policymakers, what is at stake pedagogically and politically is whether it fosters both a sense of the scope and constraints on one’s own and other’s agency, and a willingness to act in ways that foster a more sustainable future (Lotz-Sisitka, 2016). Accordingly, the typical educational expectation is acting differently will be required in most occasions, even if a conclusion cannot be drawn as to what an exact end-in-view is. For ESE researchers, research groups and subfields facing this challenge, we recommend an explicitly two-pronged approach to what can be identified as some of the “stupidities” that have arisen, which misconstrue how research-policy relationships operate in this field (Stiegler, 2015). The first involves harnessing short-term tactics that address recent expectations of “impact” originating from policy circles, and the second, developing strategies suited to playing the long game in policy-research relationships. This is because stupidity is not simply reducible to matters of error but rather it may betray failures in capacity to distinguish and communicate what is important from the unimportant. The stakes in this distinction are high. ESE research and researchers can expect to receive more mainstream demands for “impact” particularly when, for example, climate change is argued to be a key matter of concern shaping education policymaking, practices and the researching of ESE during the coming decades.
This paper will dig into the genealogy of the relationship between research and policy since the 1960s and develop a critique of the current efforts to bridge this relationship. The beginning of this analysis will describe the development of the publicly funded mass university in UK and Scandinavia as the overarching backdrop for understanding the current challenges within research-policy relationship. Based on that we will move towards different and changing paradigms of incentive structures within universities and how these have influenced research-policy relations. This will also take its outset in a general understanding of the university as an institution and a part of the higher education (HE) sector. From there we will arrive at the specifics of the research field described above dealing with environmental education and educational perspectives on sustainability, which we will describe under the umbrella term of ESE. Through an analysis of current challenges within ESE research, we emphasize how the research field finds itself in a situation where it needs to live up to current performance based research funding systems paradigms and at the same time engage policy makers in order to ensure the impact of its research. This carries the risk that the ESE field and the individual researcher is locked in a fickle relationship with a partner that often harbors simplistic ideas about the nature and scope of research while at the same time often ends up with being out of tune with the challenges as identified by both researchers and practitioners.
This analysis leads us to recommend a two pronged approach to the research-policy relationship that both offers (borrowing from the vocabulary of chess): 1) tactics to deal with the current agendas of research-policy relationships, while maintaining an eye for the changing nature of these agendas, and 2) Strategies in order to play the long game and emphasize the potential future trajectories of the ESE-related challenges that we face and how these will influence the ESE-research-policy (and of utmost importance also -practice) relationship.
Exley, S. (2010). Making policy with ‘good ideas’: policy networks and the ‘intellectuals’ of New Labour AU - Ball, Stephen J. Journal of Education Policy, 25(2), 151-169. Lotz-Sisitka, H. (2016). Reviewing strategies in/for ESD policy engagement: Agency reclaimed AU The Journal of Environmental Education, 47(2), 91-103. Orland, M. (2009). Separate orbits: The distinctive worlds of educational research and policymaking. In G. Sykes, B. Schneider, D. Plank, & T. Ford (Eds.), Handbook of education policy research (pp. 113-128). New York: Routledge. Stiegler, B. (2015). States of Shock: Stupidity and Knowledge in the 21st Century: John Wiley & Sons.
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