30 SES 13 A, Teaching ESE
Policy- makers call for intensifying our efforts towards a more sustainable society. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is often seen as an action-oriented approach aiming at empowering students to take action in order to cope with Sustainable Development issues (Mogensen & Schnack, 2010). ESD literature refers to an action-oriented teaching approach (also called action competence approach) towards SD issues (e.g., Ellis & Weekes, 2008). SD issues are characterized by complexity, uncertainty and they are more often than not controversial or wicked problems (e.g., Wals 2011). As such, they are no predetermined solutions, which students should understand and learn to put into practice(Hungerford & Volk, 1990). Thus, an action- oriented approach in ESD does not aim at students’ behaviour modification but enabling them to take informed decisions to cope with SD issues (Rudsberg & Ohman, 2010; Wals, 2011). The students need to consider the context of the SD issue under consideration and be aware of possibilities of action in this particular context (e.g., Jensen, 2000).
When it comes to putting ESD in their lessons, teachers’ interest towards ESD has an impact on the instructional practices that they actually apply (e.g., Andersson, Jagers, Lindskog & Martinsson, 2013). If a teacher is interested in ESD will most probably get his/her students engaged with SD issues (Jaspar, 2008). The instructional practices which the teacher apply in class influences greatly the development of students’ action competence towards SD issues (e.g., Sinakou, Donche, Boeve-de Pauw & Van Petegem 2019). A recent review of Sinakou et al. (2019), based on the ESD literature, ends up in a conceptual framework about the instructional design which is appropriate for the cultivation of students’ action competence towards SD, namely, the Action-oriented ESD framework. This framework consists of five components: a) action taking, b) students’ active participation in their learning and teaching, c) peer interaction, d) community involvement and e) interdisciplinarity.
Jensen and Schnack (2006) urge for research focusing on instructional practices that seem to promote action competence towards SD issues. Until now, there is little empirical research done to examine the ESD implementation. As such, the purpose of this study is to investigate (a) teachers’ interest in ESD and specifically in action-oriented instructional practices in ESD and (b) the instructional practices, which they employ in their lessons and (c) any gap between their interests and action-oriented instructional practices in ESD.
The research questions are the following:
1. In which aspects of SD-related action orientation are teachers interested in?
2. What is the difference between teachers’ interest in SD-related action orientation and their instructional practices?
Even if the survey vignette methodology has a long history in social research (Wallander, 2009), it still not broadly used in educational research (e.g., Sandri, Holdsworth & Thoma, 2018; Kopnina, 2014). The vignettes methodology has, however, the potential to reduce social desirability responding (e.g., Kopnina, 2014). In particular in ESD research some scholars have recently made used of it (e.g., Kopnina, 2014; Cebrián & Junyent, 2015). We used a survey vignette methodology, in which teachers were offered two short vignettes which describe class situations. The respondents came across two vignettes, which are ‘‘short, carefully constructed descriptions of a person, object, or situation, representing a systematic combination of characteristics’’ (Atzmuller & Steiner, 2010, p. 128). As such, they offer a specific context in which the participant has to respond (Steiner & Atzmuller, 2016, Kopnina, 2014). This makes them as realistic as possible (Steiner & Atzmuller, 2016) accounting for increased construct validity (Steiner, & Atzmuller, 2016). We made use of Action-oriented ESD framework (Sinakou et al, 2019) as a source of operationalization for the vignettes. It consists of five components: a) students’ action taking, b) students’ active participation in their learning and teaching, c) peer interaction, d) community involvement and e) interdisciplinarity. We distinguished two levels for each component. The first level represents practices of low action-oriented practice, whereas the second level refers to high action-oriented practices. This process resulted into two vignettes: one with low level action-oriented practices and one with high level action-oriented practices. The teachers were asked to explain if and why they find each vignette interesting or not and then, to report aspects of each vignette that match with their own instructional practices or not. The sample consists of 187 elementary and secondary school Flemish teachers. Given the current curriculum, they are expected to include aspects of ESD in their lessons. To ensure the internal validity of the vignettes, we followed a series of steps: interview, experts review, cognitive and pilot testing prior to main run survey.
The thematic analysis resulted in six categories regarding teachers’ interests in action-orientation in ESD: (a) peer interaction, (b) interdisciplinary approach, (c) leadership in the class, (d) community involvement, € students’ action- taking and (f) taking account several perspectives regarding SD issues. Each category is divided in two or three sub-categories. The teachers’ interests in specific categories of ESD action- oriented instructional practices are not in alignment with their applied instructional practices. The teachers are mainly interested in Leadership in the class and Community involvement. Nevertheless, they report that they apply Community Involvement, Taking into account several perspectives, Action- taking instructional practices. Furthermore, the majority of teachers report only one category of action-orientation in ESD regarding both interests and instructional practices. This indicates that they do not have a rich conceptual understanding of action-orientation in ESD but rather poor. When they respond to the low vignette, the teachers are interested in Community involvement practices. On the contrary, as a response to the high vignette, they report that they are interested in Leadership in the class and in combining Community involvement practices with Action-taking practices. When the teachers respond to the low vignette, they mention that they take into account several perspectives. However, when it comes to the high vignette, they mention that they apply Action-taking practices. We conclude that teachers’ interests as well as their reported instructional practices may vary according to the context, in our case, the vignettes. In this regard, this study reveals a variation of action- oriented ESD instructional practices depicting the reality in the classroom. The findings of this study can be used in ESD theoretical discussions as well as in ESD empirical
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