30 SES 02 A, Competence based perspectives in ESE
Individual consumer behavior remains one of the key challenges for sustainable development (SD). Despite growing educational efforts in various areas of society, and albeit expanding knowledge on the background and consequences of consumption, on a societal level, little has changed about individual consumer patterns and their detrimental impacts. In line with general deliberations on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), this situation led scholars to the opinion that a broader transformation of Education for Sustainable Consumption (ESC) is necessary, shifting the focus of learning from a knowledge-based to a rather competence-based approach in which learners can acquire the skills to personally pursue and structurally facilitate more sustainable lifestyles (Fischer & Barth, 2012).
While it seems obvious that consumption-related cognitive knowledge is important for these purposes, there is growing evidence that it is not sufficient and not even of primary relevance for promoting SC. More recent studies have instead emphasized that consumer activities are strongly influenced by affective-motivational dispositions (Frank, 2017; Power et al., 2017). Social agents are not necessarily aware of these dispositions and the role they play regarding their consumer choices (Gregory-Smith et al., 2013; Frank, 2017), as people do not have automatic access to their inner states and processes (e.g. Wilson, 2004). Nevertheless, explicitly addressing affective-motivational factors of consumer behavior is crucial for promoting SC. In fact, problematizing consumption in an exclusively discursive-intellectual manner is not only likely to be ineffective (Tenbrunsel & Messick, 2004), but even risks to trigger emotional coping mechanisms that might stabilize unsustainable behaviors (Haidt, 2001; Frank & Fischer, 2018). A confrontation with the social, environmental and economic challenges of contemporary society can be overburdening insofar as it is not accompanied by an appropriate emotional support and the provision of problem-oriented coping mechanisms that allow to constructively deal with the source of the emotional discomfort (Hamann et al., 2016).
Against this backdrop, several scholars have called out for a more holistic approach within (H)ESD/HESC. They highlight the urge for developing personal – especially affective-motivational - competencies for the aim of educating change agents for SD, such as self-reflexivity / self-awareness (recognizing one’s emotions and the way one acts upon them), emotional self-regulation or emotional resilience (Sipos et al., 2008; Fischer & Barth, 2014; Brundiers & Wiek, 2017). Yet despite growing acknowledgment of the relevance of such personal competencies, current approaches within HESC are still mostly limited to or at leastprioritize the discursive-intellectual dimension of sustainability-related competencies (Shephard, 2008). In particular, a systematic cultivation of self-reflexive and affective-motivational competencies remains scarce (Frank et al., 2018).
In order to address this gap, we introduce two new approaches for ESC: Self-inquiry-based (SIBL) and self-experience-based learning (SEBL). SIBL and SEBL are adaptations of the IBL and EBL pedagogies. SIBL can be defined as an IBL format in which the object of inquiry is the individual student itself. The overall goal of SIBL is to develop an inter-subjective understanding of personal phenomena by applying a systematic and controlled research procedure. Similarly, SEBL is an EBL format in which students aim for a deeper comprehension of their own subjective experiences. They consist of learning activities that (1) provide students access to their subjective experience, (2) enable them to systematically observe and document the latter and finally (3) analyze them according to scientific standards.
During winter term 2017/2018 and since summer term 2018, we applied these formats within the framework of two seminars on “Personal approaches toward sustainable consumption”. We made these seminars subject to a scholarship of teaching and learning (McKinney, 2004) in order to investigate their potential for cultivating personal competencies for SD in general and SC in particular.
Within the aforementioned seminars, students develop transformational projects of their personal consumer patterns toward more sustainable behaviors and put these projects into practice. They systematically observe and analyze their inner states and processes occurring over the course of their transformation, applying scientific methods to generate an intersubjective understanding of the process of transforming consumer behavior. Moreover, seminar attendees are familiarized with a variety of techniques empowering them to mobilize personal resources to pursue their transformational projects. We offered the seminar in two different versions. The first version was run during winter term 17/18, addressing 30 university freshmen of varied fields of study for the duration of one semester (3 hours/week). The aim of this pilot seminar was to explore if the format would resonate with the students’ interests and whether the application of SIBL and SEBL could provide access to the individual challenges and hindrances of transforming one’s consumption. Based on these experiences, an extended version of the seminar (one year, 4 hours/week) was started in summer term 18, addressing 20 undergraduate students in their 4th semester from the field of environmental sciences. The research served to inquire upon three questions: 1. Which insights did students gain about the (inner) difficulties hindering to put their transformational projects in practice? 2. How did the seminar effects students’ consumer behaviors beyond the period of the transformational project? 3. How did students generally experience the seminar? What did they learn from attending the seminar and which problems did they see concerning the seminar format? Data collection and analysis followed a four-step process. Students regularly reflected the experiences with their transformational projects within research diaries (step 1). These diaries were then made subject to a systematic inquiry, in which students identified overarching patterns concerning challenges and supporting factors of transforming one’s consumer behavior (step 2). In step 3, we conducted a content analysis (following Elo & Kyngäs, 2009) of the students’ analyses, destillating and summarizing the patterns identified in step 3. In addition to the students’ analyses, we also took into account seminar evaluations as well as students’ final reflections on the seminar experience in order to address all questions mentioned above. In addition, we held a reflective session in which students reported upon their key learnings and their general experience with the seminar. In Step 4, preliminary results were discussed with students in order to validate and refine our findings.
1) Seminar attendees gained a series of insights concerning difficulties and potentials for transforming their individual consumer behavior. In particular, they were able to observe affective-motivational processes (e.g. emotionally challenging situations) as well as their previously unconsciously applied coping mechanisms to these processes. 2) Most of the students reported lasting changes of their consumer behaviors. Not only did they stabilize their new routines established during the seminar; in many cases, the seminar also stimulated behavioral changes in consumer activities that were not related to their individual projects but were pursued by other members. The seminar enhanced students’ perceived self-efficacy and confidence to follow lifestyles in accordance to their values. 3) The seminar prompted a number of learning effects among students. Apart from the consumption-related awareness, knowledge and skills, they especially emphasize that the seminar enhanced their sensitivity to inner states and processes, such as emotions, but also their personal values. Being able to observe the latter enabled them to replace tendencies of avoidance, suppression or denial by problem-oriented coping mechanisms that allow to constructively deal with the source of the emotional discomfort (Hamann et al., 2016). For this reason, students also held that the learning effects from the seminar went beyond their academic education, instead being of relevance for their lives in general. Problems with the seminar included unclarity in the overall structure, difficulties with following some of the applied learning activities or an initial discomfort when observing sharing inner processes in a university context. Overall, our research suggests that SIBL and SEBL are promising methods for ESC to stimulate personal, sustainability-related competencies. They epitomize a holistic, experiential, action-oriented and transformational pedagogy supporting self-directed learning, participation and collaboration, problem-orientation, inter- and transdisciplinarity and the linking of formal and informal learning.
Brundiers, K. & Wiek, A. (2017). Beyond interpersonal competence: Teaching and learning professional skills in sustainability. Education Sciences, 7 (39), 1-18 Elo, S., & Kyngäs, H. (2008). The qualitative content analysis process. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 62(1), 107–115. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2007.04569.x Fischer, D. and Barth, M. (2014), Key Competencies for and beyond Sustainable Consumption. An Educational Contribution to the Debate, GAiA, Vol. 23 (Supplement 1), 193–200 Frank, P. (2017). Warum wir Tiere essen (obwohl wir sie mögen) – sozialpsychologische Erklärungsansätze für das Fleischparadox. In J. Straub und P.S. Ruppel (Hg.). Kerosinfrei und vegan: das ökologische Selbst. Psychosozial, 40(2), 49-69 Frank, P. & Fischer, D. (2018). 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. Frank, P., Sundermann, A. & Fischer, D. (submitted). How mindfulness training cultivates introspection and competence development for sustainable consumption. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education Gregory-Smith, D., Smith, A. & Winklhofer, H. (2013). Emotions and dissonance in ‘ethical’ consumption choices. Journal of Marketing Management, 29 (11–12), 1201–1223, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0267257X.2013.796320 Haidt, J. (2001). The Emotional Dog and its Rational Tail: A Social Intuitionist Approach to Moral Judgement. Psychological Review, 108(4), 814–834. Hamann, K., Baumann, A., & Löschinger, D. (2016). Psychologie im Umweltschutz – Handbuch zur Förderung nachhaltigen Handelns, München, 2016 Power, N., Beattie, G. & McGuire, L. (2017). Mapping our underlying cognitions and emotions about good environmental behavior: Why we fail to act despite the best of intentions. Semiotica, 215, 193-234. McKinney, K. 2004. "The scholarship of teaching and learning: Past lessons, current challenges, and future visions."To Improve the Academy22:3-19. Shephard, K. (2008), "Higher education for sustainability: seeking affective learning outcomes",International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 9(1), 87-98 Sipos, Y., Battisti, B. & Grimm, K. (2008). Achieving transformative sustainability learning: Engaging head, hands and heart. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 9, 68–86. Wilson, T.D. (2004), Strangers to Ourselves. Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious. Cambridge, Harvard University Press
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