30 SES 14 A, Action Competence in Education for Sustainable Development
In this conceptual paper we call for an unambiguous use of the terms Action Competence (AC) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). In addition, we will contribute to a further conceptualisation of AC, introducing two novel terms. We distinguish between AC in sustainable development (ACiSD) as a competence of (groups of) individuals focusing on SD issues, and Professional Educational Action Competence in ESD (PEACesd) as teachers’ competence in implementing ESD. The description of AC in the literature has given rise to different interpretations (Bonazzi Piasentin & Roberts, 2018). In 2010, Mogensen and Schnack stated that ‘in a broad sense’ AC is ‘an educational approach’ (p. 60), but also that ‘competence is always linked to the individual’ (p. 64). Consequently, AC can be read both as a competence of (groups of) people (e.g. Clark, 2016), and as an educational approach (e.g. Ellis & Weekes, 2008). Both interpretations are rooted in the concept as introduced by the Danish school. When referring to the AC approach, we suggest using ‘ESD’ as a pluralistic (Öhman, 2008) and action-oriented educational approach (Mogensen & Schnack, 2010). Action is more than a mere behaviour in that it is decided upon by the person who acts, and is targeted at solving a complex issue (Jensen, 2000). The issue to be solved could be an SD or an ESD issue. Competence is the ‘commitment, will and ability to take action’ (Jensen, 2000, p. 149). Since the issues to be solved need commitment and should be decided upon autonomously, the motivation required is intrinsic. We propose to draw from Moeller’s (2013) framework, which combines the concepts of commitment and passion. Ability can be understood to comprise the relevant knowledge on what could contribute to solving the complex issue involved, and how to proceed for doing so. This knowledge on what people acknowledge as necessary and important for SD is called knowingness (Olsson, 2018). Next to commitment and passion, also confidence is needed that the (group of) individual(s) can exert influence and has possibilities for action (Breiting et al, 2009). This resonates with concepts of outcome and efficacy expectations (Bandura, 1977). In conclusion, we suggest understanding AC as being the commitment and passion, knowingness, self-efficacy, and trust in the outcome of actions undertaken to solve a complex problem. If the problem is related to SD, we call this ACiSD. If the action targets an ESD issue, it is called PEACesd.
Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191-215. Bonazzi Piasentin, F. & Roberts, L. (2018). What elements in a sustainability course contribute to paradigm change and action competence? Environmental Education Research, 24(5), 694-715. Breiting, S., Hedegaard, K., Mogensen, F., Nielsen, K., & Schnack, K. (2009). Action competence, Conflicting interests and Environmental Education. Aarhus: DPU. Clark, C.R. (2016). Collective action competence: an asset to campus sustainability, I.J.Sust.Higher Ed., 17(4), 559-578. Ellis, G., Weekes, T. (2008). Making sustainability ‘real’: using group‐enquiry to promote education for sustainable development, Environmental Education Research, 14(4), 482-500. Jensen, B.B. (2000). Health knowledge and health education in the democratic health‐promoting school. Health Education, 100(4), pp.146-154. Moeller, J. (2013). Passion as concept of the psychology of motivation. Universität Erfurt. 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. Öhman, J. (2008). Environmental ethics and democratic responsibility – A pluralistic approach to ESD. In Values and democracy in education for sustainable development: Contributions from Swedish research, ed. J. Öhman, 17–32. Malmö: Liber. Olsson, D. (2018). Student Sustainability Consciousness. Doctoral Thesis. Karlstad University Studies.
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