30 SES 03 A, Sustainability perspectives in citizen and character education
Climate change, species extinction, pollution, rising inequality and social injustice are just some of the issues humanity faces. Put simply, we are living unsustainably. Education has long been considered as a means of addressing the destructive effects of human activities. But how to educate for these complex issues and an uncertain future? Sustainability education aims to address these questions.
Since the 1960s, when it became a distinct discipline, environmental education, and subsequently sustainability education (SE), has undergone several changes in approach (Gough, 2013; Tilbury, 1995), moving from a focus on knowledge, to behaviour modification, to a more critical approach, to education for sustainable development (ESD) (Tilbury, 1995; Gough, 2013; Stevenson et al., 2016; Breiting, 2000). Throughout these changes, values education has been considered a component to a greater or lesser extent (Scott & Oulton, 1998). However, values education is highly contested ground.
Vare & Scott (2007) wrote of the two pedagogical approaches of ESD (see also Wals/UNESCO 2009), which they termed ESD 1 and ESD 2. ESD 1 refers to education that is instrumental, and promotes predetermined knowledge, behaviours and values. Whereas, ESD 2 builds capacity to think critically about sustainability issues and to self-determine sustainable ways of living (Vare & Scott, 2007; Wals/UNESCO, 2009). Vare and Scott (2007, p.194-195) are concerned that ‘[t]oo much successful ESD 1 in isolation would reduce our capacity to manage change ourselves and therefore make us less sustainable’. Conversely, Sterling (2003) warns that alone it can be ethically bereft and as such may do little to support the move towards a more ecological/sustainable perspective.
Vare & Scott (2007) subsequently argue for, rather than seeing the two approaches as competing, instead consider them complimentary. In fact, the Education for the environment approach of the 1990s sought to combine a critical approach with a strong values element (Fien, 1993/1995; see also Tilbury, 1995). However, as a challenge to the behavioural approach of the time, the development of critical thinking and political literacy were more emphasised, and the values aspect was eventually lost. Since then, values education has often been viewed as instrumental/deterministic and incompatible with a critical approach.
The need to combine these two pedagogical approaches motivated this research project. Unfortunately, there is an on-going tendency for values education to be viewed as instrumental, un-democratic, or incompatible with a critical approach (Huckle, 1986; Wals et al., 2008; Wals, 2011). Additionally, educators have been shown to be unclear on how values should be approached or taught (Halstead & Taylor, 2000; Bowden 2013; Scott & Oulton, 1998; Aðalbjarnardóttir, 1999), with many teachers reluctant to address ‘controversial’ issues in the classroom, uncertain of how self-disclosing or judgemental they should be, and with concerns about indoctrination (Scott & Oulton, 1998, Halstead & Taylor, 2000).
Using Repko and Szostak’s (2017) Interdisciplinary Research Process as a framework, this research project seeks to address the overall problem of teaching the values aspect of SE by taking an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on disciplinary insights with the goal of integrating those insights to construct a more comprehensive understanding. Character education (CE) is an existing field of educational research and practice that aims to support the social, emotional and ethical development of students. This multi-method project aims to explore, as an overall research question:
What possibilities and insights might the field of CE offer into the problem of teaching the values aspect of SE?
This paper presents one part of the project: A Delphi study to explore ‘experts’’ perceptions regarding the feasibility, options, barriers and facilitators of the integration of insights and/or practice from the CE and SE fields.
The Delphi technique can be seen as a structured group communication process that focuses on a problem (Linstone and Turoff, 1975, in Okoli & Pawlowski, 2004). Since sufficient knowledge concerning the problem is required, a panel of ‘experts’ is gathered. The Delphi study can be likened to a virtual meeting of a panel of experts gathered to arrive at a group answer to a problem (Okoli & Pawlowski, 2004). The study was carried out via email. 12 participants (‘experts’) were purposefully sampled using criterion sampling, stratified purposeful sampling, and snowball/network/chain sampling (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2016). The objective was to select a mix of educationists from both the character education and sustainability education fields. The ‘experts’ were selected via a Knowledge research nomination worksheet (following Okoli & Pawlowski, 2004) in order to make the sampling process as transparent, non-biased, and systematic as possible. 5 character education experts (3 ‘academics’, 2 ‘practitioners’; 3 males and 2 females) and 7 sustainability education experts (5 ‘academics’, 2 ‘practitioners’; 3 males and 4 females), from across 7 countries, 4 continents, took part in the study. The Delphi involved experts answering questions in 3 rounds. After each round, the anonymous results of the previous round were provided to the participants by the researcher. Round 1 of the study consists of the five open-ended questions, to gather the initial ideas and perspectives that will be developed and evaluated in the subsequent rounds. The second and third rounds involved an evaluation of the statements in terms of agreement and importance via Likert scale items, and an opportunity for individuals to revise their views (Okoli & Pawlowski, 2004). Data synthesis and interpretation is on going through a Delphi study. Descriptive statistics (median, mode, frequency data, response/point percentages, and interquartile range) of the Likert item evaluation responses given in Rounds 2 and 3 were calculated and tabulated in order to aid in the judgement of consensus in terms of agreement and importance, as well as provide insight into the on-going discussion taking place within the Delphi. Ideas, concepts, and analytical themes were developed throughout the Delphi process. While many Delphi studies aim for consensus, others, including this study, aim to allow differences to be brought to, and remain at, the surface. Developing clarity in terms of differences is held as important as developing clarity in terms of consensus. (Okoli & Pawlowski, 2004; Baumfield et al., 2012).
Analysis is currently still on going, but some emerging themes are: Theme 1 – Pluralism vs. normativity: There was surprisingly little discussion of the conflict between values/character education and democracy and/or pluralism. However, participants did not consider schools ‘value free’. There was some concern from CE experts that excessive ‘pluralism’ in SE and CE could lead to dilution and meaninglessness in both fields, and an undesirable ‘all points of view are valid’ approach. Theme 2 Neoliberalism/Education for qualification vs. Education for change: Participants perceived a problem regarding the aims/intention of education, and expressed a need to change and to make those aims explicit. Participants considered instrumental/exam-driven schools and a narrowing of the curriculum a major concern and a barrier to CE/SE integration. All participants agreed that there is a need to steer aware from any neoliberal agenda in CE (though some claimed ‘individualistic’ CE is a contradiction). No agreement was reached of whether there should be radical change or incremental change in the education system, or whether the former is essential for SE/CE integration. Theme 3 Personal (moral) vs. Systemic (political): Potential conflict between underpinning goals and philosophies was not seen as problem by most participants, however there were some misconceptions among SE participants regarding a perceived individualistic orientation in CE. There was agreement that a narrow view and lack of familiarity of other field is a barrier to integration.
Aðalbjarnardóttir, S. (1999). Tracing the developmental processes of teachers and students: A sociomoral approach in school. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 43(1), 57– 79. Baumfield, V. M., Conroy, J. C., Davis, R. A., & Lundie, D. C. (2012). The Delphi method: gathering expert opinion in religious education. British journal of religious education, 34(1), 5-19. Bowden, R. (2013). Leading through Values: Pilot Project Report. Leek: Lifeworlds Learning/ Values in Schools Alliance. Accessed May 23, 2013. www.learningthroughvalues.org Breiting, S. (2000). Sustainable development, environmental education and action competence. In: Jensen,B, Schnack, K. & Simovsk, V.a (Eds.) Critical Environmental and Health Education Research Issues and Challenges, 151-165. Aarhus: The Danish University of Education. Fien, J. (1993/1995). Education for the Environment: Critical curriculum theorising and environmental education, Geelong, Australia: Deakin University Press Gough, A. (2013). The emergence of environmental education research. International Handbook of Research on Environmental Education. New York: Routledge, 13-23. Halstead, J. M., & Taylor, M. J. (2000). Learning and teaching about values: A review of recent research. Cambridge Journal of Education, 30(2), 169-202. Huckle, J. (1986) in Gough, A. (2013). The emergence of environmental educa(on research. Interna7onal Handbook of Research on Environmental Educa7on. New York: Routledge, 13-23. Leiserowitz, A. A., Kates, R. W., & Parris, T. M. (2006). Sustainability values, attitudes, and behaviors: A review of multinational and global trends. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 31, 413-444. Okoli, C., & Pawlowski, S. D. (2004). The Delphi method as a research tool: an example, design considerations and applications. Information & management, 42(1), 15-29. Repko, A. and Szostak, R. (2017) Interdisciplinary process and theory (3rd edition), London: Sage Publications. Scott, W. & Oulton, C. (1998) Environmental Values Education: an exploration of its role in the school curriculum, Journal of Moral Education, 27, 2, 209-224, DOI: 10.1080/0305724980270206 Tilbury, D. (1995) Environmental Education for Sustainability: defining the new focus of environmental education in the1990s, Environmental Education Research, Vol. 1, No. 2, p. 195-212. Vare, P. & Scott, B. (2007) Learning for a Change: Exploring the Relationship Between Education and Sustainable Development, Journal of Education for Sustainable Development 1, 2, 191–198. Wals, A. E., Geerling-Eijff, F., Hubeek, F., van der Kroon, S., & Vader, J. (2008). All mixed up? Instrumental and emancipatory learning toward a more sustainable world: Considerations for EE policymakers. Applied Environmental Education and Communication, 7(3), 55-65.
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