30 SES 15 A, Systematic Reviews and ESE
The goal of education is often described as to enable individuals to preserve and improve society (e.g. Dewey, 1986). Currently the future of all societies and the survival of the human species are at threat because of a dramatic climate change. Therefore, sustainable action and education towards it is vital. Initiatives like UNESCOs Education for Sustainable Development impart knowledge and programs to support people to build sustainable values. But they do not tackle a vibrant underlying problem: Even if individuals know, value and even intend to act sustainable, when it comes to real life, they do not bring it into action (Li et al. ,2019; Moser und Kleinhückelkotten, 2018; Binder and Blankenberg, 2017; Allen, 2016; Frederiks et al., 2015). Psychological research calls this phenomenon value-action gap. We claim that without exact knowledge on how to close this gap, Education for Sustainable Development and in this regard education for a future society cannot be effective. Therefore, we gathered scientific findings on what is necessary to bridge the gap. We spotted 46 relevant articles from diverse subjects like economics, wildlife preservation and moral education and in a systematic literature review. From the empirical evidence within these articles, we developed an overall framework of successful transformation of values into action, always focusing on the topic of sustainability action. This framework is based on three main findings:
1) Most relevant actions concerning a sustainable life style are made unconscious, based on habits or heuristics (Haidt, 2009; Higgins-D’Alessandro, 2008; Narvaez and Lapsley, 2005).
2) Conscious actions are based on decisions that root back to either egoistic reasons, social reasons or reasons that have an extended frame in time and space. Individuals seem to have a main focus and eventually develop it into the next reasoning frame. This tripartite structure is to be found again and againin different research (van Riper et al., 2020; Lee et al., 2017; Navarez, 2009; Stern et. al, 1999; Kohlberg, 1984, Turiel, 1998; Nucci, 1997). The more a decision was connected to a reason that went beyond egoistic or even social concerning, the more likely intentions and actions were sustainable (Lee et al., 2017; Higgins-D’Alessandro, 2008).
3) Additional, there are situational factors relevant for the decision making. If individuals for example fear to lose something (Frederiks et al., 2015), are unfamiliar with a solution (Flynn et. al., 2009) or see the responsibility to act in others (Lee et al., 2017; Frederiks, 2015), they act less sustainable. But if there are for example role models (Babutsidze and Chai, 2018; Hitchings et al., 2015) or if individuals feel self-value and control in the given situation (Saddawi-Konefka et al., 2016; Higgins-D’Alessandro, 2008) sustainable actions are more likely. Rewards and incentives are ambivalent in their effect and were mostly not as effective as intended (Frederiks et al., 2015; Lee et al., 2017).
This can be taken as a starting point for education towards enabling individuals to preserve and improve society. Consequently, they lead to a necessary paradigmatic shift for educational policies.
In a systematic literature review we entered the terms “value-action gap” as well as “judgment-“, “intention-“, “attitude-“ and “knowledge-action gap” in the databases ERIC, APA (incl. PsycINFO) and the Web of Science Core Collection (to make the paper more readable we write value-action gap but mean all these closely related terms). We included all papers published from 2005 up to 2020 and crosschecked the 116 articles that showed up to remove those with no connection to global challenges. Finally, 46 articles remained for further examination. Interestingly, some of the paper’s empirical research on bridging the value-action gap did not really measure action, although claimed, but instead took self-reports or intentions. To provide an overview over the articles and their quality, data was systematized in a chart: the topics of the article, country of origin, the target group, if applicable the names of underlying or featured theories; the empirical articles were furthermore described in the chart by the number of participants, the way of conduction and if the research measured real action and when not, if this was problematized. We examined the 46 articles to gather systematically all findings on how to bridge the value-action gap. After the process it became clear that the quality of the findings was differing and there needed to be a bottom line for taking a finding as valid. Therefore, we set rules on which findings would be included in the theoretical framework and again examined all articles to see, which findings met the following criteria: a) data resulted directly from the article and represents not only singular opinions in interviews, b) at least three references were reported undermining a statement or c) the method of cited research was outlined and considered convincing. Afterwards, the valid findings were merged into a theoretical framework.
The theoretical framework – which is based upon well proven empirical data - can serve as a basis to think about how educational systems can effectively support Education for Sustainable Development. Concerning its three main findings outlined above, Education politics can hardly influence, situational factors in real life scenarios outside their institutions. But they can put into curricula what is important according to the first two findings: 1) Education has to support individuals in bringing their subconscious actions into cognition and raise their ability to reflect on it. This is supported by the findings that people more likely act sustainable if they have more discriminatory time (Binder and Blankenberg, 2017; Chai et al., 2015) and if they reflect or are reminded (Sharpe, 2016). Also, educational institutions can help in building new sustainable habits and heuristics for example through a supportive surrounding and role models. 2) Educational institutions have to support individuals to shift their main focus of reasoning from egoistic to social and finally to more universal grounds. As this has the most effective and long-lasting impact on individuals, their habits and actions. The individuals’ position within the tripart structure of decision taking is a stable factor and individuals eventually move forward, but do not regress. Taking the findings together: If we really want to meet the current global challenges and support the survival of the human race, there has to be a paradigmatic shift in educational policies. Instead of focusing on individual competition, competencies, and achievements (which has an underlying personal, self-enhancement focus according to the Schwartz-Scale of values – Schwartz et al. 2012) the (future) society - should be educated to reflect, have a wide world perception und use this view as a basis for their reasoning.
Allen, Myria W. (2016): Understanding Pro-Environmental Behavior: Models and Messages. In: Myria W. Allen (Hg.): Strategic Communication for Sustainable Organizations. Cham: Springer International Publishing (CSR, Sustainability, Ethics & Governance), 105-137. Babutsidze, Z., & Chai, A. (2018). Look at me Saving the Planet! The Imitation of Visible Green Behavior and its Impact on the Climate Value-Action Gap. Ecological Economics, 146, 290-303. Binder, Martin; Blankenberg, Ann-Kathrin (2017): Green lifestyles and subjective well-being: More about self-image than actual behavior? In: Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 137, 304-323. Chai, A., Bradley, G., Lo, A., & Reser, J. (2015). What time to adapt? The role of discretionary time in sustaining the climate change value-action gap. Ecological Economics, 116, 95-107. Dewey, John (1986): Experience and Education. In: The Educational Forum 50 (3), 241-252. Flynn, R., Bellaby, P., & Ricci, M. (2009). The ‘Value-Action Gap’ in Public Attitudes towards Sustainable Energy: The Case of Hydrogen Energy. The Sociological Review, 57(2_suppl), 159-180. Frederiks, Elisha R.; Stenner, Karen; Hobman, Elizabeth V. (2015): Household energy use: Applying behavioural economics to understand consumer decision-making and behaviour. In: Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 41, 1385-1394. Haidt, J. (2009). Moral Psychology and the Misunderstanding of Religion. In J. Schloss & M. Murray (Eds.), The believing primate: Scientific, philosophical, and theological reflections on the origin of religion (pp. 278–291). New York: Oxford University Press. Hitchings, R., Collins, R., & Day, R. (2015). Inadvertent environmentalism and the action-value opportunity: reflections from studies at both ends of the generational spectrum. Local Environment, 20(3), 369-385. Higgins-D’Alessandro, Ann (2008): The Judgment-Action Gap. A Modest Proposal. In: Fritz Oser und Wiel Veugelers (Hg.): Getting Involved. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers, 103-118. Kohlberg, L. (1984). Essays on moral development, Vol 2: The psychology of moral development. San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row. Lee, J.-M., Kim, H.-J., & Rha, J.-Y. (2017). Shopping for Society? Consumers’ Value Conflicts in Socially Responsible Consumption Affected by Retail Regulation. Sustainability, 9(11), 1968. Li, Ding; Zhao, Luman; Ma, Shuang; Shao, Shuai; Zhang, Lixiao (2019): What influences an individual’s pro-environmental behavior? A literature review. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 146, 28-34. In: Resources, Conservation and Recycling 146, 28-34. Moser, Stephanie; Kleinhückelkotten, Silke (2018): Good Intents, but Low Impacts: Diverging Importance of Motivational and Socioeconomic Determinants Explaining Pro-Environmental Behavior, Energy Use, and Carbon Footprint. Environment and Behavior, 50(6). In: Environment and Behavior 50 (6), 626-656. [...]
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