30 SES 06 B, Student Voices in ESE
All around the world people are discussing and debating how we can make sufficient and urgent changes for a more sustainable society. The role of education and how education can support change towards a more sustainable society has been a subject of debate for decades (Biesta, 2009; Schiro, 2008, Toom et. al, 2015; Torstensson & Brundrett, 2011). The Swedish curriculum emphasize sthat education shall foster democratic students that contribute to a sustainable development (Skolverket, 2011). However, the curriculum does not state explicitly how these values are to be translated into classroom practice which complicates effective implementation. The worldwide movement #Fridays for future# that the Swedish teen Greta Thunberg started through her school strikes outside our parliament building has actualized the question what it takes educationally to contribute to transformation and change as well as raised the importance of listening to young people’s voices.
Previous research show that traditional teaching does not always address what students find important and necessary for their future skills (Manni, 2018) and that there is a need for more studies regarding students’ experiences of education for a sustainable development (Lockhart, 2018). Researchers also state that in order to tackle present and future challenges education cannot be reproductive of the status quo, it must be transformative and change-oriented (Lotz-Sisitka, et al., 2015; Leicht, Heiss, & Byun, 2018). Lotz-Sistika and colleagues have presented the concept of “T learning”; as a new way of thinking about learning that could lead to a more sustainable society (Lotz-Sisitka et al., 2015; Lotz-Sisitka et al., 2017; O’Donoghue, 2014). T-learning refers to: change oriented (involve changes in our daily practice), transformative (changes in our cognition, understanding, and values and how we see the world) and transgressive (learning that are normative, critical, and challenging the status quo) learning. What are the students’ view of necessary skills for the future in relation to these new ways of thinking about learning?
We will present and discuss some findings from an interview study with upper secondary students in regarding the role of education in contributing to changes for sustainability. We felt a need to turn to our students to get some answers how education can contribute to change. The aim of the current study was to explore students’ voices on the role of contemporary education in relation to urgent issues in society related to sustainability.
In our work we have used the concept of “T-learning”; transformative and transgressive learning to understand change-oriented learning and students’ views on sustainability issues (Lotz-Sisitka et al., 2015; O’Donoghue, 2014). In an online presentation Lotz-Sisitka presents a model of how to understand T-learning (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23xdhNehFe4).
We found this model relevant because it captured the essence of change-oriented learning for sustainability in a theoretical way. We have interpreted the model as it describes the following three interrelated parts of T-learning, transformative, transgressive and change oriented learning, with a center where these aspects meet in an “optimal” space of learning. While not explicitly mentioned in the model, we find it include a holistic view on the learner and the learning process, i.e., learning is not merely a cognitive process but is also interrelated with embodied and emotional processes.
Data collection During 2018 and 2019, semi-structured interviews with 31 students were conducted at five upper secondary schools in Sweden and South Africa. Each interview was tape-recorded and lasted between 15 and 40 minutes. Informed consent was obtained from the students participating. The interview examined which issues in society the students found important, and their experiences of education they had participated in, connected to these issues. First, students were encouraged to talk relatively freely about issues in society they found important then special focus was put on a number of issues the research group had identified as interesting, i.e. citizenship, inclusive education, cultural diversity, and environmental issues. At the end the students were asked if they wanted to make an impact in society towards a more sustainable one and if so, how, and if they perceive themselves to have the knowledge and skills to do so. The proposal will focus on data from the Swedish students. Comparisons of data between students from Sweden and South Africa are currently initiated and preliminary results are planned to be available during Spring 2021. Thematic data analysis Interview data were analysed using thematic analysis, a method for identifying and interpreting underlying patterns in the data (Braun & Clarke, 2006, Saldana, 2009). First, each interview was coded deductively based on three main themes in the interview guide; (1) Issues in society the students found important, (2) Agent of social change, and (3) Experiences of education. Then ,within the three themes an inductive approach where codes and themes were developed empirically from the data, were used. As a second step the results were related to theories of transformative and transgressive learning (Lotz-Sisitka, et al., 2015). We understood the three parts (transformative, transgressive and change-oriented learning) as interrelated, but also as approached or experienced in practice one at a time. In this second step, we used the emerging themes of educational experiences, identified gaps in education, and limitations for action from the inductive analysis and placed them in the model according to their characteristics. By doing so, we were able to study transformative and transgressive learning in practice, but also what was not there or what was placed elsewhere.
The students mentioned a wide range of issues in society they found important. Many of the important issues mentioned, including the action the students wanted to take, as well as the education they asked for more of, were connected to their own lived experiences. Pointing at the importance of keeping the sustainability education nuanced and inclusive to motivate all students. The students seem to have met experienced and sensitive teachers, because they described how they have been given many opportunities to discuss important issues in class. In relation to the change-oriented aspect of T-learning, this study indicates that some critical discussions have taken place and new perspectives have been gained, but action and change in practice was largely absent, and if there was some action it was within the pre-decided structures of environmental care. We did also find a discrepancy between the educational experiences that they talked about, and on the other hand, the limitations for action and the education they wanted more of. The latter was more often of a more complex nature with all three aspects of T-learning being more interrelated and connected. A common observation in the analysis was that mentioning of transgressive learning was relatively absent when talking about educational experiences, as well as when talking about limitations for action and education they would like to have more of. It seems, from our results, to be a delicate (but crucial) issue to continue engaging in troublesome discussions (Haraway, 2018), while balancing the teaching of factual knowledge with challenging ethical and moral discussions in a local context. By analyzing the data in the two steps described, we gained both a deeper understanding of the participating students’ thoughts and experiences in relation to societal and sustainability education and an overview that the thematic analysis alone could not provide.
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