30 SES 03 A, Paper Session
Along with the Fridays for Future protests, sustainability issues are getting more important for German pupils (Haunss, Rucht, Sommer, & Zajak, 2019) as well as teachers. Pedagogical professionals and young people are searching for effective ways to engage in solving the implications of the exacerbating climate crisis through individual or collective strategies. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is increasing in its relevance to the German educational system (Singer-Brodowski, Brock, Etzkorn, & Otte, 2019). On a practical level, the ambitions and requirements to enable good ESD especially on the side of teachers stay high. Studies found out, that although a structural implementation of ESD in curricula and other binding documents is on the way, the teachers are assessing their own knowledge regarding sustainability issues only with a school grade three (Brock and Grund 2019), thus there is an insecurity on the teacher’s side to implement good ESD.
In the background of the necessity to professionalise teacher’s ESD practice, it seems to be positive, that many ESD efforts in German schools are realised in cooperation of schools and non-formal learning organisations (mostly from civil society organisations with pedagogical expertise/ environmental or global questions). Additionally, in the last few years, new actors occur that practically support sustainability solutions on a local base – repair cafés, urban gardening project or start-ups for food saving, that can be described as social innovations for sustainability and that are characterised by their experimental approaches (Jaeger-Erben, Rückert-John, & Schäfer, 2015). They are also starting to develop educational activities and trying to bring their expertise in schools. Together these three actors (teacher, non-formal educators and social innovation actors) form inter-professional ESD-networks that complement each other in their expertise and approaches. The learning workshops took students and teachers out of school and into the community, thus boundary crossing with the potential to trigger learning experiences was created (Akkerman and Bakker 2019). This 'community of practice' (Wenger 1998) combined a variety of perspectives, which is conducive to individual but also societal change processes.Studies on local networks for sustainability found out, that reflexivity is one of the most important outcomes of working together in such inter-professional and intersectoral multi-stakeholder networks (Sol, van der Wal, Beers, & Wals, 2018). At the same time, higher reflexivity is a result of transformative learning processes (Mezirow, 1991). Bringing these research strands together, one can conclude, that ESD networks are on the one hand an important source of inspiration and quality for ESD for the pupils and on the other hand, a learning network and advanced training in itself.
The project “Transformative Learning for Engagement – Social Innovations as a Source of Inspiration for Environmental Education and Education for Sustainable Development” (funded by the German Environment Agency)connected teachers, non-formal learning organisations and social innovation actors to develop and conduct so-called “learning workshops” (German: Lernwerkstatt) for one school year. The partners were working together in the mode of service-learning (Fortuin & van Koppen, 2015), which means that extracurricular practical learning activities are combined with content-specific learning and reflection activities in the classroom.
The project has built up four networks with school classes (grade level 6 to 11) in three German cities. After developing the concept of the specific learning workshop for sustainability in September 2019 on a two-day Design-Thinking-Workshop, the partners started to plan and realise practical activities like tinkering costumes on endangered animals to conduct a “carnival of animals”.
The researchers aim to understand these learning processes of all participants involved. The central question was: Which learning processes are initiated through the learning workshops in the mode of service-learning in cooperation with actors of social innovations?
The study used a mostly qualitative mixed-methods design that allowed triangulating results from different forms of data collection and interpretation and thereby broadens the possibilities of insights (Flick, 2010: 284). Firstly, self-evaluation questionnaires were completed by all adults (teachers, non-formal educators and social innovation actors) after each practical activity. These questionnaires included quality criteria from service-learning projects, focus on the participation of students and could contribute to the self-reflection of the educators during the process. Secondly, semi-structured expert interviews (Bogner, Littig, & Menz, 2014) were conducted with all educators to uncover the professional understanding of all actors involved, their practical experiences with the learning workshops and the cooperation with the other partners as well as their individual perspective on sustainability. The interviews were analysed with a qualitative content-analysis (Kuckartz, 2018). Thirdly, we applied participatory observations during the practical activities in the different spaces to shed light on the actual activities that have been initiated in the learning workshops. They addressed the actions of the students while participating in the learning workshops and their personal examination with issues of sustainability and problem solutions. The study was conducted in cooperation with the Wuppertal Institute for Climate and Environment and the “Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie”, the evaluation of the learning workshops was realised in the shared responsibility of the Wuppertal Institut and the researchers. It followed the approach of a responsive evaluation (Stake, 2004), where the aim of the evaluation was to respond more sensitively to the needs of the “evaluated” actors than in pre-defined approaches of evaluation. The potentials of responsive evaluations lied in early feedback loops that opened up the chance to correct and adapt the intervention. In line with this open and flexible research process, reflection-tools for the pupils were revised after an exchange with project participants. Due to corona, fewer activities took place and less observation, in total eight, could be protocolled. However, we conducted 14 interviews mainly via telephone with the adults involved in the learning workshops. After transcribing the interviews, they were coded and analysed. Furthermore, a final triangulation of all results include the results from the final workshop, which was held online, 5 months after the last practical activity. In total, even though the practical activities had partly to be shifted in the next school year, a broad data set was generated an analysed by the authors.
Regarding the scientific results, we got deeper insights on the individual, organisational and inter-organisational conditions, processes and dynamics of actors, who are starting networks for realising ESD. Particularly we found out, that especially the initial phase of a cooperation holds high potential for transformative learning processes (Mezirow, 1991). For teachers, the exchange with actors from social innovation and non-formal education institutions leads to moments of irritation through new perspectives on sustainable solutions and other opinions on teaching and learning. The design-thinking workshop in the beginning, the interviews and the final workshop were opportunities for all actors to reflect on their own educational practices in exchange with scientific ideas as well as ideas brought up from other actors. For all participants the project played a huge role for their personal professionalization. This was, according to the actors, more or less explicit. Especially the social innovation actors saw this project as a chance to gain further expertise in teaching ESD and cooperating with schools. The teachers had to trust the extracurricular partners and open their class for the impulses from outside. Furthermore, the study carved out which aspects lead to successful cooperation in multi-professional ESD-networks. Following the whole institution approach, it is for example beneficial for strengthening long-term partnerships if school principals support extracurricular activities or even include them in the school structures. Concerning Service Learning as a method in ESD, results of the project state that it brings new input in ESD but makes the cooperation more complex. Challenging is for example the aim of student-participation. All mentioned results will be presented at the conference and further research questions will be raised.
Reference List Akkerman, Sanne F.; Bakker, Arthur (2011): Boundary Crossing and Boundary Objects. In: Review of Educational Research 81 (2), S. 132-169. DOI: 10.3102/0034654311404435. Bogner, A., Littig, B., & Menz, W. (2014). Interviews mit Experten: Eine praxisorientierte Einführung. Lehrbuch. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. Flick, U. (2010). Triangulation. In G. Mey & K. Mruck (Eds.), Handbuch Qualitative Forschung in der Psychologie (1st ed., pp. 278–289). s.l.: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften (GWV). Fortuin, K.P.J., & van Koppen, C.S.A. (2015). Teaching and learning reflexive skills in inter- and transdisciplinary research: A framework and its application in environmental science education. Environmental Education Research, 22(5), 697–716. Haunss, S., Rucht, D., Sommer, M., & Zajak, S. (2019). Germany. In M. Wahlström, P. Kocyba, M. de Vydt, & J. de Moor (Eds.), Protest for a future: Composition, mobilization and motives of the participants in Fridays For Future climate protests on 15 March, 2019 in 13 European cities (pp. 68–80). Jaeger-Erben, M., Rückert-John, J., & Schäfer, M. (2015). Sustainable consumption through social innovation: a typology of innovations for sustainable consumption practices. Journal of Cleaner Production, 108, 784–798, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959652615009312. Kuckartz, U. (2018). Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse. Methoden, Praxis, Computerunterstützung (4. Auflage). Grundlagentexte Methoden. Weinheim, Basel: Beltz Juventa. Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning: Jossey-Bass, 350 Sansome Street, San Francisco, CA 94104-1310. Singer-Brodowski, M., Brock, A., Etzkorn, N., & Otte, I. (2019). Monitoring of education for sustainable development in Germany – insights from early childhood education, school and higher education. Environmental Education Research, 25(4), 492–507. Sol, J., van der Wal, M. M., Beers, P. J., & Wals, A. E.J. (2018). Reframing the future: the role of reflexivity in governance networks in sustainability transitions. Environmental Education Research, 24(9), 1383–1405. Stake, R. E. (2004). Standards-based & responsive evaluation. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice, learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
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