01 SES 16 A, U-turn on the Highway to Hell? Education and Professional Development for Sustainability as Praxis
As educators we hold responsibility to create the capacities for critical engagement with the key issues of our time and to foster practices such as: ‘anticipatory thinking, integrative thinking, dealing with complexity and ambiguity…and to create learning spaces for the development of qualities such as care, empathy and solidarity’ (Peters & Wals, 2012). Educators can approach learning in different ways, and employ different educational practices: social learning, transformative learning and, as explored by this contribution, transgressive learning. Social learning refers to practices of learning inspired by types of dissonance created when different perspectives meet in socially favourable conditions. Dissonance, diversity and social cohesion are critical in finding new forms of thinking to in break stubborn routines and practices and co-create alternative ones. Transformative learning opens up new lenses of perception and strengthens our capacities for understanding and navigating complex challenges, like the ones of addressing socio-ecological challenges and creating more sustainable societies. Mezirow suggested that learning can only be transformative when we come to recognize and modify the assumptions and beliefs that frame our tacit points of view and influence our understandings, our values and interpretation of the world, but also of others and that determine our actions (see Mezirow & Taylor, 2009). Both the idea of social learning and transformative learning are necessary in our continuous search for a world that is more sustainable than the one in prospect. But still it is not enough. The structural elements and the neo-liberal forces that drive so much of what we do in education must also be considered. Presently, education is almost exclusively serving the economy, a particular economy even, one that has faith in the market, depends on growth, efficiency, materialism and consumerism, and one that neglects to adequately value the Earth’s resources and the non-human world. This is where Wals’ (2015) and Lotz-Sisitka et al.’s (2015) interpretation of transgressive learning comes in: interactive and critically reflexive processes that expose systemic dysfunction and create the disruptive capacity needed to create a viable counter narrative - a U-turn on the highway to hell. This paper presents analyses of the learning practices in transboundary and transitional learning communities that seek to overcome systemic global dysfunction. The projects are examples of the type of education that values the planet, takes seriously the threats to it and encourage practices in communities that allow a life worth living (cf. Kemmis, 2018).
Kemmis, S. (2018). Keynote address Educational research and the good for humankind: changing education to secure a sustainable world. Paper presented at the Education, Fatherland and Humanity - Finnish Institute for Educational research (FIER), University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Lotz-Sisitka, H., Wals, A. E., Kronlid, D., & McGarry, D. (2015). Transformative, transgressive social learning: Rethinking higher education pedagogy in times of systemic global dysfunction. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 16, 73-80. Mezirow, J., & Taylor, E. W. (2009). Transformative learning in action: A handbook for practice. Peters, M. A., & Wals, A. E. (2016). Transgressive learning in times of global systemic dysfunction: interview with Arjen Wals. Open Review of Educational Research, 3(1), 179-189. Wals, A. E. (2015). Beyond unreasonable doubt. Education and learning for socio-ecological sustainability in the Anthropocene. Wageningen, Wageningen University.
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