30 SES 08 A, Curriculum innovation and analysis in ESE
To learn to live sustainably on Earth is, arguably, the greatest challenge of our time. Education, if well supported by government policy and resources, can make a long-term contribution to developing a more sustainability literate citizenry. Sustainability principles, practices and skills are now embedded in Australian school curriculum frameworks and form an emerging theme in education research, particularly in teacher education, outdoor and environmental education where the possibilities for holistic, collaborative and critical pedagogy are recognized (see; Hart, 2007; Hill 2012; Lugg, 2012; Nolet, 2009; Ross, Christie, Nicol, & Higgins, 2014). However Australian teachers and pre-‐ service teachers are only minimally prepared for this challenge (Stevenson, Davis, Ferreira & Evans, 2014). This scenario presents a challenge for pre-service and in-service teachers who are expected to be able to teach sustainability as a cross-curriculum priority (see ACARA, 2018) and for teacher education programs to grapple with these 21st century curriculum imperatives.
Given the broad scope of sustainability issues on global and local levels, how can pre-service teachers conceive and develop an interdisciplinary sustainability curriculum? How can they engage secondary school students in “real world’ learning that links to the formal curriculum and to students’ lives? How do they work in cross-disciplinary teams to plan and teach in settings ranging from classrooms to outdoor environments? These were some of the challenges facing the post-graduate pre-service teachers involved in a pilot practicum program in a secondary school in Bendigo in regional south-east Australia. The program, called SOIL – Sustainability through Outdoor Integrated Learning, was established in 2009 as an emergent partnership program set up between La Trobe University and a local secondary school. The SOIL practicum, that is the context for this study, was an opportunity for outdoor education pre-service teachers to engage in interdisciplinary curriculum innovation and teaching as professional learning in a local school setting. It enabled the school to offer students a more engaging, experiential learning approach to sustainability education and was therefore mutually beneficial to both the university and the school. This paper focuses on the conditions that enabled pre-service teachers’ professional learning in this context.
Integration of teaching practicum with university-based learning has been the focus of considerable research effort (see for example, Zeichner, 2010). An emphasis on participation in professional communities, adaptability and collaborative knowledge building is a distinctive characteristic of sociocultural research in teacher education (see Deed, Cox & Edwards, 2014; Edwards, 2009, 2015; Engestrom, 2008). This approach focuses on building pre-service teachers’ capacities to negotiate the social, cultural and material conditions of teaching practice. For teacher educators, this notion of developing teachers’ relational expertise implies shared, dynamic, activity and meaning-making, rather than a fixed repertoire of knowledge and skills (Edwards, 2009, 2015). This view of teaching as social practice resonates with a contemporary social learning orientation in sustainability education and outdoor education literature (see Hart, 2007; Hill 2012; Lugg, 2012; Wals, 2007). It also reflects the collaborative teaching and learning structures of the SOIL practicum program under discussion in this paper. This paper focuses on the relational conditions for professional learning in the SOIL practicum, that enabled; pre-service teachers and in-service teachers to effectively collaborate, negotiate and learn in this context.
The paper reports on findings from a longitudinal case study designed to investigate the impact of the program on the pre-service teachers’ (PSTs) professional development in the pilot year of the program. The research questions focused on how the PSTs conceptualised outdoor education curriculum in relation to sustainability issues and how the emergent, collaborative structures of the practicum impacted their teaching practice and professional development as teachers. Data were generated via interviews, focus groups, field observation and document analysis. A thematic analysis was informed by an ecosocial conceptual framework drawing on Engeström’s (2001, 2008, 2009) Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT)-based concept of expansive learning and Edwards’ (2011, 2012, 2015) notion of joint collaborative work through the “gardening tools”: relational agency, common knowledge and relational expertise. This framework enabled analysis of the relational work involved in enacting school-based curriculum innovation in a relatively short time frame, where pre-service teachers specialising in outdoor education, worked in multi-disciplinary teams with humanities and science teachers as mentors. An iterative thematic analysis resulted in ide notification of key themes and categories that highlighted significant professional learning outcomes for the pre-service teachers and the characteristic conditions that enabled that learning. Challenges for researcher- participants are also discussed.
This paper does not report on the whole study but focuses on the conditions that both enabled and constrained pre-service teachers’ collaborative decision-making for sustainability curriculum innovation, team teaching and problem solving in an interdisciplinary framework. The key conditions that enabled the pre-service teachers’ professional learning were; the school’s desire for change and innovation, the complexity and scope of the sustainability curriculum, the improvised team-based practicum structure, teacher mentors’ relative inexperience in teaching sustainability, the pre-service teachers’ adaptability and adventurous mindsets, and the dynamic roles and responsibilities that emerged. The need for engaging distributed expertise to effectively develop and deliver the sustainability curriculum was a key factor in this joint professional development venture. While collaborative knowledge building and relational agency substantially enhanced the pre-service teachers’ professional development, this research highlighted the need for further research into how interdisciplinary curriculum in sustainability is conceptualised and enacted.
Deed, C., Cox, P. & Edwards, D. (2014). Preparing pre-service teachers for open plan, up-scaled learning communities. In V. Prain, P. Cox, C. Deed, D. Edwards, C. Farrelly, M. Keefe (Eds.) Adapting to teaching and learning in open-plan schools (pp. 125-138). Rotterdam: Sense. Edwards, A. (2009). Becoming a teacher: A sociocultural analysis of initial teacher education. In H. Daniels, H. Lauder, & J. Porter (Eds.) Educational theories, cultures and learning: A critical perspective (pp. 153-164). Oxon & New York: Routledge. Edwards, A. (2011). Building common knowledge at the boundaries between professional practices: Relational agency and relational expertise in systems of distributed expertise. International Journal of Educational Research. 50(1), 33–39. Edwards, A. (2012). The role of common knowledge in achieving collaboration across practices. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 1(1), 22–32. doi:10.1016/j.lcsi.2012.03.003 Edwards, A. (2015). Recognising and realising teachers’ professional agency, Teachers and Teaching, 21(6), 779–784. doi:10.1080/13540602.2015.1044333 Engeström, Y. (2001). Expansive learning at work: Toward an activity theoretical reconceptualisation. Journal of Education and Work, 14(1), 133–156. doi:10.1080/13639080020028747 Engeström Y. (2008). From teams to knots: Activity-‐theoretical studies of collaboration and learning at work. Cambridge: Cambridge University. Engeström, Y. (2009). Expansive learning: Toward an activity theory reconceptualisation, In K. Illeris (Ed.), Contemporary learning theories: Learning theorists… in their own words (pp. 53–73). Oxon: Routledge. Hart, P. (2007) Social learning and action inquiry. In A.E.J Wals (Ed.) Social learning towards a sustainable world: Principles, perspectives and praxis. (pp. 313-329) Netherlands: Wageningen Academic. Hill, A. (2012). Developing approaches to outdoor education that promote sustainability education. Australian Journal of Outdoor Education, 16(1), 15–27. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/openview/2b0460dd87b3e431ec5ac43d68a8c2f3/1?pq-‐ origsite=gscholar Nolet, V. (2009). Preparing sustainability literate teachers. Teachers College Record, 111(2), 409-442. Retrieved from: http://www.tcrrecord.org.ez.library.latrobe.edu.au/library/Content.asp?ContentId=15177 Stevenson, R. B., Ferriera, J. Davis, J., & Evans, N. (2014). A state-‐wide systems approach to embedding the learning and teaching of sustainability in teacher education. Sydney: Australian Government Office for Teaching and Learning. Ross, H., Christie, B., Nicol, R., & Higgins, P. (2014). Space, place and sustainability and the role of outdoor education. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 14(3), 191–197. doi:10.1080/14729679.2014.960684. Wals, A. E. J. (Ed). (2007). Social learning towards a sustainable world: Principles, perspectives and praxis. Netherlands: Wageningen Academic.
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