04 SES 03 C, Engaging Teachers In Supporting Inclusive Change
Schools and teachers are recognised as key players for accelerating progress towards UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG4 of providing equitable and inclusive education. International organisations such as UNESCO increasingly promote strategies to achieve SDGs via national education strategies and policies around the world. For example, in Scotland, SDG achievement is part of national strategies and programmes such as National Performance Framework, Scottish Attainment Challenge, Getting it Right for Every Child, and the Learning for Sustainability (LfS) Action Plan (2019). Among other things, this last plan envisages that “every practitioner, school and education leader should demonstrate LfS in their practice” and that “every school should have a ‘whole-school’ approach to LfS that is robust, demonstrable, evaluated and supported by leadership at all levels”, to be achieved by practitioners’ engaging with the SDGs through professional learning embedded within their practice, supported by other actors and teacher education. Similar strategies exist across the UK and internationally.
Research shows that teachers can and do act as agents of change (Pantić, 2015a; 2017; Pantić & Florian, 2015; van der Heijen et al, 2015). However, school leadership and teachers often feel unprepared for dealing with these challenges. Furthermore, Pantic’s research on collaborations that facilitate change (Pantić, 2015b; Making Visible 2018; Making Sense, 2019) show that they involve time and resource-intense collaboration between researchers and practitioners which are costly and impractical at a larger scale.
The toolkit aims to help educators a) build the national SDGs indicators into their local targets; b) identify relevant knowledge and network with players within and beyond schools to consider solutions; and c) evaluate their impact. This approach recognises that achievement of SDGs is a matter of building inclusive communities as much as building knowledge. If we are to avoid treating SDGs as third world problems, raising students’ knowledge and awareness of big global challenges such as social justice and climate change need to be accompanied by modelling how issues of inequality and sustainability can be addressed in their immediate school environment. For example, school staff and students might identify different SDG-related issues that are of most concern in their communities and consider what kind of change (however big or small) is needed in their own individual and collective attitudes and behaviour. The toolkit enables an accessible, structured and engaging way of thinking through the whole-school approaches that, although recognised as essential, are often challenging for schools because they require time-intense coordination between different actors. ACT enables educators to incorporate research about effective ways of making change in the activities that are already structured into schools’ self-evaluation and development, such as ‘Whole-setting and community approach to learning for sustainability’, which sets out what a whole school approach to sustainability looks like. Importantly, the toolkit guides school staff to evaluate the impact of change in and on their school communities, which is sometimes missing from the whole-school improvement efforts. The toolkit has been developed so that it can be used by educators from a range of countries to support them in addressing the SDGs in their curricular contexts.
The Agents of Change Toolkit project (taking place March 2020 – July 2021) creates knowledge exchange opportunities for teachers, researchers, leadership, educational authorities, designers, and out-of-school educators via a series of seminars and workshops, and co-designs an engaging, practical toolkit for schools and teachers to identify the changes required to improve education around the SDGs. Participants’ reflections at the beginning and at the end of the project were captured using a Log for Teacher Reflection on their Agency for Change (TRAC) as well as the actual change in their schools after the project (along the parameters they identified as their targets). The project draws on research and theories of change (e.g. Laing & Todd, 2015) to ensure that the toolkit is engaging, accessible, and effective and it includes research-informed, pedagogically sound, educational games, made freely available online. Game-based learning has considerable potential for efficient delivery of both knowledge and behavioural outcomes (Abbott, 2019a; Games & Social Change, 2015) and a learning-objective-centric workflow for teachers has already been piloted by Abbott (2019b). The Agents of Change Toolkit project (ACT) uses a highly interdisciplinary co-design methodology to create the games (and other toolkit elements) in consideration of theories of change towards particular purposes for particular schools using scenarios related to SDGs.
This paper will present the major findings, outcomes, and impact of the ACT project’s aim to create whole-school professional development for collective action towards achievement of the SDGs and reflect on the project’s contribution to both research and practice. The seminars and workshops have seen educators from across Scotland participating in designing the toolkit and serious games to meet particular needs within their communities, as well as ensuring that the toolkit design is inclusive of a range of educational settings and contexts. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the process and outcomes of the project will also be discussed, including issues around online participation and the development of the online toolkit. Implications for educators in making use of the Toolkit to support their response to the SDGs will be discussed, and there will be opportunity for participants to discuss how the Toolkit and serious game could be applied in their contexts.
Abbott, D., (2019a) Game-based learning for postgraduates: an empirical study of an educational game to teach research skills. Higher Education Pedagogies, 4 (1). pp. 80-104. ISSN 2375-2696 Abbott, D., (2019b) Modding Tabletop Games for Education. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 11385. pp. 318-329. ISSN 0302-9743 Games and social change: In-between screens, places and communities, (2014 – 2015), [project], https://gtr.ukri.org/project/9C80BC05-ECAE-4BBD-9D1A-32C85BCFAACC van der Heijden, H.R.M.A., Geldens, J.J.M., Beijaard, D. & Popeijus, H.L., (2015) Characteristics of teachers as change agents, Teachers and Teaching, 21:6, 681-699, DOI: 10.1080/13540602.2015.1044328 Laing, K. and Todd, L. (eds) (2015) Theory-based Methodology: Using theories of change in educational development, research and evaluation. Research Centre for Learning and Teaching, Newcastle University. Learning for Sustainability (LfS) Action Plan (2019), https://education.gov.scot/improvement/Documents/LearningforSustainability-Vision2030ActionPlan.pdf Log for Teacher Reflection on their Agency for Change (TRAC), https://reflective-teacher-net.edina.ac.uk/ Making Sense of Communities of Practice with Social and Epistemic Network analysis (2018-2019) [project], https://www.ed.ac.uk/education/rke/centres-groups/rten/research/teachers-as-agents-of-change/projects Making Visible Teacher Agency for Inclusion (2017/18) [project], https://www.team4change.education.ed.ac.uk/ Pantic, N. (2017). An exploratory study of teacher agency for social justice. Teaching and Teacher Education, 66, 219-230. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2017.04.008 Pantic, N., & Florian, L. (2015). Developing teachers as agents of inclusion and social justice. Education Inquiry, 6(3), 333-351. https://doi.org/10.3402/edui.v6.27311 Pantic, N. (2015a). A model for study of teacher agency for social justice. Teachers and Teaching; Theory and Practice, 21(6), 759-778. https://doi.org/10.1080/13540602.2015.1044332 Pantic, N. (2015b). Reconciling rigour and impact by collaborative research design: Study of teacher agency. International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 40(4), 329-344. https://doi.org/10.1080/1743727X.2015.1113250
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