30 SES 07 A, Pedagogical perspectives on teaching and learning in ESE
Paper/Ignite Talk Session
The aim of this presentation is to propose the concept knowledge practices as an appropriate approach to analyse educational practices. The operationalisation of the concept might be useful in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) specifically.
In the field of ESD much emphasis is put on the importance of students’ agency (Bencze, Sperling, & Carter, 2012; Hodson, 2003) and, more specifically, their action competence (B. B. Jensen, 2002; Mogensen & Schnack, 2010). To develop these traits, many advocate transformative learning as the appropriate framework for ESD (e.g. Carter, Rodriguez, & Jones, 2014; Pavlova, 2015; Sterling, 2001). Mezirow (1997) sees transformative learning as processes that change the way we understand experiences. Within this paradigm, the development of the whole person is the aim. The vital role of schools in developing the whole person is often highlighted. Moreover, there is a problem-based and cross-curricular approach including academic knowledge (Mogensen & Schnack, 2010).
Hence, to make knowledge actionable is essential to ESD. To achieve this through ordinary education seems to be challenging (Olsson, Gericke, & Chang Rundgren, 2016), possibly due to teaching and learning practice being perceived as “doing school” (Furberg & Ludvigsen, 2008) – where students and teachers have adapted to values, norms and structures that runs counter to the aim of developing action competence. This problem can be understood as social aspects of tacit knowledge (Collins, 2010), where individuals share and take part in the collective tacit knowledge of “doing school”. To make this knowledge more explicit, might help facilitating an action oriented approach with an emphasis on student agency.
One way of approaching the collective tacit knowledge is by applying practice theory. The concept of practice has been developed in an interdisciplinary practice theory to overcome the actor–structure division, common in social science research (Schatzki, 2001, p. 2). The practices theorists will say that there exist neither an overall structure forcing people to act as they do, nor a totally open, unguided space for acting freely. Rather, some common norms or expectations define human actions, and are necessary ingredients of a practice. Schatzki (2001, p. 2) defines practice as “embodied, materially arrays of human activity centrally organized around shared practical understanding.” In other words, practices are patterns of activities that take place in physical space and time and involve actors and material objects.
To investigate school practices in general is beyond our scope. Here, we use the concept knowledge practices to illuminate how knowledge can be made actionable. The concept is inspired by Karin Knorr Cetina’s (1999) Epistemic Cultures. The concept has proved useful as an analytical approach in the field of professional education where knowledge practices denotes the ways in which knowledge is approached, developed, applied and shared among the actors in a setting (K. Jensen, Nerland, & Enqvist-Jensen, 2015, p. 869). Thus, the concept knowledge practices allows us to move beyond the traditional emphasis on ‘knowledge as content’ to knowledge as investigative processes, modes of inquiry and principles for verification, as part of school activities.
In this project we use knowledge practices to describe knowledge that is performed, developed and shared in time and space dealing with material objects (learning resources). We do not focus on the intended learning outcomes, curriculum requirements or the knowledge presented in textbooks and other sources per se. Emotional and ethical considerations are important in ESD, but is not the focus of this investigation.
The analysis is inspired by Knorr Cetina’s (1999) comparison of epistemic cultures. Where the cultures with their structures and dynamics, values and the assumptions that drive them are often implicit and become tacit parts of a practice – unless different fields are contrasted. By comparing two different knowledge practices, we are able to mirror and question each of the practices – and thus, reveal some of the social tacit knowledge. The first author was part of a larger ethnographic study where two knowledge practices were compared, guided by the following research question: What are the characteristics of knowledge practices in different school subjects? The practices were located at a Norwegian upper secondary vocational program. The focus was on contrasting knowledge practices in vocational subjects, which tend to take place in a workshop, and knowledge practices in academic subjects, where teaching and learning for the most part take place in a classroom. In the workshop the emphasis was on actionable knowledge, although not particularly directed at sustainable development. In the classroom there were a more traditional academic approach to learning. The empirical material from the ethnographic study was mainly field notes and interviews. The field notes focused on descriptions of everyday school practices and knowledge activities the students engaged in. The research team compared notes to calibrate our observational focus and to compare our understanding of various events and moments. Preliminary analyses were presented to students, teachers, and leaders of the school after data collection and initial coding and analysis had been completed for feedback and discussion. Nerland’s (2018) analytical scheme in outlining constitutive elements of knowledge practices was used. It was adjusted to account for time (Alhadeff-Jones, 2018) and space (Johansen, 2018; Soja, 2010) in the practices. The analytical scheme has the following dimensions: types of knowledge tasks, types of knowledge processes, actors, sequence and duration in time, use of physical space and use of material objects.
In the workshop practice, the students were frequently problem-solving. However, the choices they made were seldom made explicit. The teacher was often setting the standards in assessing products, but not always. If the product was not considered to reach an acceptable standard it had to be done over. The students worked collaboratively where one student had the responsibility of leader. The duration of each of the activities could last for 5 minutes to half a day. However, the activities connected as part of a sequence to make a large concrete object (e.g. a wall). The students had the freedom to walk – and the activities required constant movement. There was use of tools all the time – and it was stressed by teacher to keep tools in good order. In the classroom practice, the students were listening to the teachers’ lecturing and recounting information orally or in writing. The required products were usually short/small. Even if the product failed the accepted standards – always set by the teacher – they progressed to the next task. Students worked mostly individually. In group activities, the students usually divided tasks and worked with the parts individually. The duration of an activity was often short. The sequence of activities where often loosely connected in terms of content. The students could not move freely. The tools in the classroom (pens, paper, textbook and computer) were reluctantly used – and not kept in good order. In the workshop practice there were more support for developing students’ agency. Seen in light of the possibility for transformative learning and action competence, can classroom practice be developed so that it takes on some of the traits of the workshop practice? We will in this presentation, point to the dimensions of time, space and material objects as vital for altering classroom knowledge practice.
Alhadeff-Jones, M. (2018). Time and the Rhythms of Emancipatory Education (Theorizing Education): Routledge. Bencze, L., Sperling, E., & Carter, L. (2012). Students’ Research-Informed Socio-scientific Activism: Re/Visions for a Sustainable Future. Research in Science Education, 42(1), 129-148. Carter, L., Rodriguez, C. C., & Jones, M. (2014). Transformative Learning in Science Education: Investigating Pedagogy for Action. In Bencze & Alsop (Eds.), Activist Science and Technology Education (pp. 531-546). Dordrecht: Springer. Collins, H. M. (2010). Tacit and Explicit Knowledge: University of Chicago Press. Furberg, A., & Ludvigsen, S. (2008). Students' meaning-making of socio-scientific issues in computer mediated settings: Exploring learning through interaction trajectories. International Journal of Science Education, 30(13), 1775-1799. Hodson, D. (2003). Time for action: Science education for an alternative future. International Journal of Science Education, 25(6), 645-670. Jensen, B. B. (2002). Knowledge, Action and Proenvironmental Behaviour. Environmental Education Research, 8(3), 325-334. Jensen, K., Nerland, M., & Enqvist-Jensen, C. (2015). Enrolment of newcomers in expert cultures: an analysis of epistemic practices in a legal education introductory course. Higher Education, 70(5), 867-880. Johansen, G. (2018). The school science lab: Hybrid space and the production of school science. In Otrel-Cass, Sillasen, & Orlander (Eds.), Troubling science education through cultural, political and social perspectives: Springer. Knorr Cetina, K. (1999). Epistemic cultures. How the sciences make knowledge. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. Mezirow, J. (1997). Transformative Learning: Theory to Practice. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 1997, 5-12. Mogensen, F., & Schnack, K. (2010). The action competence approach and the ‘new’discourses of education for sustainable development, competence and quality criteria. Environmental Education Research, 16(1), 59-74. Nerland, M. (2018). Knowledge practices and relations in professional education. Studies in Continuing Education, 40(3), 242-256. Olsson, D., Gericke, N., & Chang Rundgren, S.-N. (2016). The effect of implementation of education for sustainable develoment in Swedish cimpulsory schools – assessing pupils’ sustainability consciousness. Environmental Education Research, 22(2), 176-202. Pavlova, M. (2015). Design and Technology Education for Sustainable Futures: In Preparation for Global Citizenship. In Stables & Keirl (Eds.), Environment, Ethics and Cultures Design and Technology Education’s Contribution to Sustainable Global Futures (pp. 87-100). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. Schatzki, T. R. (2001). Introduction. Practice theory. In Schatzki, Knorr Cetina, & von Savigny (Eds.), The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory. London: Routledge. Soja, E. W. (2010). Seeking spatial justice. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Sterling, S. (2001). Sustainable Education: Re-visioning Learning and Change. Devon: Green Books.
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