30 SES 16 A, Intrapersonal Sustainability Competencies - An Emerging Field for Environmental and Sustainability Scholarship and Practice
Despite important progress in Environmental and Sustainability Education scholarship and global expansion of ESE programs throughout the last decades, ESE has not yet led to a mitigation of those sustainability-related problems it is meant to remedy (Reimers, 2021).
As part of an explanation, it has been criticized that current ESE scholarship and practice almost exclusively problematizes sustainability-related problems in terms of threats to nature, ecosystems, and societies, and reflects causes and solutions for these problems in terms of social economic structures, technological innovations, or governance dynamics (e.g. Ives et al., 2020). The envisaged learning outcomes of current ESE practices are characterized by a strong focus on cognitive-intellectual competencies, such as analyzing, evaluating, or assessing, which has also been criticized (Brundiers et al., 2020). In essence, it is argued that „the sustainability crisis is in large part an emergent property of the state of our inner worlds […]” (Ives et al., 2020, p. 211) and that “change in the world must occur (in part) from the inside-out” (ibid.). Such inner transformations (Woiwode et al., 2021) on people's inner, personal level, including mindsets, worldviews, beliefs, values and emotions (Wamsler & Brink, 2018), are described as an essential level of change and the deepest leverage point to promote a societal sustainability transformation. Nevertheless, the individuals' interiority remains strongly neglected in ESE.
In reaction to this shortcoming, some scholars have recently called out for a stronger consideration of (intra-)personal competencies as envisaged learning outcomes of ESE learning programs and activities (Frank & Stanszus, 2019; Giangrande et al., 2019; Brundiers et al., 2020). They have been defined as abilities, proficiencies, or skills related to inner states and processes that can be considered necessary or sufficient to engage with the cause of sustainability (Frank & Stanszus, 2019). Analogous to other sustainability competencies, personal competencies are meant to prepare learners for challenges they encounter when engaging with the cause of sustainability (Lambrechts et al., 2013). The concept of personal competencies emphasizes that current unsustainability is associated with the experience of inner, affective-motivational challenges. In order to address and overcome inner challenges, so goes the rationale, learners need to be equipped with intrapersonal competencies enabling them to deal with these challenges.
However, the current discourse on (intra-)personal competencies is still in its infancy. For example, approaches to define and specify intrapersonal competencies differ from one another (compare Frank & Stanszus, 2019; Giangrande et al., 2019), and the specific challenges to which they are supposed to respond have yet to be identified. Furthermore, it is very much an open question as to how such competencies can be measured and stimulated within ESE (Brundiers et al., 2020). Finally, a few scholars reject to concept of personal competency altogether, proposing instead to speak of mindsets or dispositions (ibid.). As a result, it is open to what extent they can or should serve as guiding criteria for the design and evaluation of ESE practice.
This symposium sets out to reflect on some of the controversies revolving around the concept of intrapersonal competencies. Questions addressed include, but are not limited to the following ones:
- Are intrapersonal competencies or mindsets or how can they best be categorized/described?
- How can intrapersonal competencies be defined? What are specific intrapersonal competencies, and to which challenges do they respond?
- Can (and should) intrapersonal competencies be assessed? If so, assessed vis-à-vis what and which assessment tools allow for intrapersonal competency assessment?
- Which learning activities can stimulate the development of intrapersonal competencies?
- How can and should research on intrapersonal competencies advance?
Brundiers, K., Barth, M., Bernat, G. C., Choen, M., Diaz, L., Dripps, W., … Zint, M. (2020). Key Competencies in Sustainability in Higher Education – Towards an Agreed-upon Reference Framework. Sustainability Science, 17. Frank, P. & Stanszus, L.S. (2019). Transforming consumer behavior: Introducing self-inquiry-based and self-experience-based learning for building personal competencies for sustainable consumption. Sustainability, 11, 2550 Giangrande, N., White, R.M., East, M., Jackson, R., Clarke, T., Coste, M.S., & Penha-Lopes, G., 2019. A competency framework to assess and activate education for sustainable development: Addressing the UN sustainable development goals 4.7 challenge. Sustainability (Switzerland), 11(10), 1–16. Ives, C.D., Freeth, R., & Fischer, J., 2020. Inside-out sustainability: The neglect of inner worlds. Ambio, 49(1), 208–217 Lambrechts, W., Mulà, I., Ceulemans, K., Molderez, I. & Gaeremynck, V. (2013). The integration of competences for sustainable development in higher education: an analysis of bachelor programs in management. Journal of Cleaner Production, 48, 65–73. Reimers, F. (Ed.)(2021). Education and Climate Change. The Role of Universities. Cham: Springer Woiwode, C., Schäpke, N., Bina, O., Veciana, S., Kunze, I., Parodi, O., … Wamsler, C. (2021). Inner transformation to sustainability as a deep leverage point: fostering new avenues for change through dialogue and reflection. Sustainability Science, 1, 3.
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