30 SES 14 B, ESE and the SDGs
The central issue addressed in this paper presentation is how education can be understood, designed and performed as a driver for Sustainability Transitions (STs). ST researchers have characterised ‘transitions’ as fundamental changes in a societal system in the sense that existing structures, cultures and practices, that are anchored in a society, are broken down and new ones become dominant (Grin et al. 2010). Transitions thus involve long-term processes of co-evolutionary changes in multiple dimensions: technology, actors, rules, infrastructures, power relations, patterns of thinking, problem definitions, cultural meanings, etc. Such complex, non-linear processes do not result from one single driver or cause, but involve a complex interplay of different processes and factors (Geels 2012). This implies uncertainty and open-endedness: there are multiple possible transition pathways, multiple promising innovations and initiatives in varied domains and it is impossible to predict which of these will prevail (Köhler et at. 2019).
In this context, learning is often put forward as a vital means of transforming unsustainable regimes (Van Poeck et al. 2020). This is deemed necessary because realising STs, it is argued, requires new forms of collaboration, experiments with creative problem-solving approaches and the acquisition and application of new knowledge, skills, values and capabilities. Not only informal learning in varied initiatives striving for STs but also formal education, i.e. schools and especially universities (Larsson & Holmberg 2018) are attributed an important role in contributing to devising solutions for sustainability problems (Copernicus 1994). Acquiring and accumulating knowledge is seen as vital but sustainability education researchers also emphasise the importance of developing teaching and learning practices that foster creativity and transdisciplinary problem-solving capabilities and that adequately address values and norms, emotions and controversies that arise in education practice (Peters & Wals 2013, Garrison et al. 2015, Ojala 2017, Van Poeck et al. 2019, Van Poeck 2019).
In this paper we present an analytical toolbox to investigate education practices in terms of their potential to enable or constrain STs. The theoretical framework underpinning this research combines pragmatist educational theory and its application to didactic theories of teaching and learning (Östman et al. 2019a,b), with insights and frameworks from sustainability transition studies (Van Poeck et al. 2020). It investigates learning in STs as being incited by a ‘problematic situation’ in which our habitual ways of acting and coordinating with the surrounding world are disturbed and that gives rise to an ‘inquiry’. Through experimentation one tries to solve the problem which results, if successful, in new knowledge, skills, values, identities, etc. This is a process in which a dynamic interplay between intrapersonal, interpersonal, institutional and material aspects shapes specific outcomes. This interplay affects the ‘privileging’ process (Wertsch 1998). All kinds of actions in learning processes communicate which knowledge, skills, values, worldviews, etc. are valid and which are not. This affects what is taken into account (privileged) and what is not and thus governs learning in a certain direction and towards certain outcomes. The multi-level perspective (MLP) on sustainability transitions (Geels 2011) allows to assess these outcomes in terms of their potential to foster STs.
The toolbox is designed for empirical research focusing on how the design and performance of education practices produce outcomes that promote STs and how educators can influence this and, thus, to address research questions such as: Which learning outcomes can be identified? Do these enable or constrain the profound systemic change that is deemed necessary for STs? How does the design of the education setting affects what is learned? How do the interventions of teachers/students affect what is learned?
Beyond assessing the effectiveness of pedagogical efforts in terms of predefined, desirable learning outcomes, this paper investigates the learning process, i.e. how knowledge, values and worldviews are (re-)created ‘in action’ through concrete practices. This requires in-depth analyses based on in situ observations and the analytical toolbox is designed to enable precisely that through in-depth analysis of empirical data gathered through semi-structured interviews and video/audio-recorded classroom observations. The two core elements of the analytical toolbox are practical epistemology analysis (PEA) and the multi-level perspective on STs (MLP). PEA is a method for qualitative analysis of education practice through scrutinising transcripts of observations (Wickman & Östman 2002). It enables detailed analyses of how meaning is created ‘in action’ and starts with identifying ‘gaps’ that become visible in, for example, hesitations, questions, disagreement on how to continue. Subsequently, PEA analyses whether and how these gaps are filled by creating ‘relations’ between what ‘stands fast’ for a person – previous knowledge, skills, values, etc. – and the new situation that is encountered. With PEA we can investigate both what is learned and how the learning was made possible. This, however, does not enable us to answer the question if/to what extent the outcomes of the learning processes may contribute to STs. Hence, the combination of PEA with MLP (Geels 2011) which allow us to analyse whether/how ST elements – e.g. characteristics of the currently dominant regime, lock-ins that consolidate the stability of that regime, internal contradictions within the regime that may disrupt this stability, existing niche practices – are employed as resources in learning processes and how they function in these learning processes in terms of enabling or constraining potential STs. We can investigate how transition elements function as, for instance, a lock-in mechanism or a window of opportunity in the privileging process and how this steers learning in a direction that has less or more potential to enable a ST. Using PEA and MLP as two core elements, we have developed a set of methodologies and protocols for empirical analyses that, together, constitute an analytical toolbox for investigating how the design and performance of education practices influence the potential to facilitate STs.
The paper presents 6 methodologies and illustrates them with empirical findings from on-going case studies: 1. A methodology for MLP-driven discourse analysis of learning outcomes 2. A methodology for in vivo analysis of how teachers’ interventions affect learning outcomes 3. A methodology for in vivo analysis of how students learn from each other in classroom discussions 4. A methodology for analysing learning through students’ reflection documents (e.g. papers, diaries) 5. A methodology for analysing the quality of students’ argumentation about STs 6. A methodology for in vivo analysis of the dramaturgy of teaching practices (incl. the preparation of teaching) We present these methodologies by describing the analytical models and methods that constitute them, explaining the protocols to implement them (analytical procedures and steps), illustrating them with an empirical example and addressing some ‘frequently made mistakes’. The toolbox is designed to – through well-considered combinations of methodologies – identify different types of learning outcomes in terms of their potential to enable STs; identify patterns in how the design of the education setting, the interventions of teachers, and the interventions of peers/students affects learning outcomes; and to derive key conditions for education practices to enable the profound change of structures, practices and cultures considered to be needed for STs.
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