30 SES 09 A, ESE in Higher Education
Our societies are undergoing huge transformations due to the green transition. This means embracing change as part our lives. The green transition is not merely a transformation that concerns technology and energy. The green transition is also related to questions of social justice, ethics, globalization, sustainability, wellbeing and education. How shall the scarce resources be divided, how to compensate those who loose in the transition, what is ethical, fair and just to who? What type of approaches and pedagogical solutions are needed to foster ethics in solving wicked problems of the present and future?
Universities all over the world are rethinking their role considering the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Agenda 2030. Staff as well as students need to be prepared for the challenges of tomorrow.
A necessity for higher education is to be able to meet these expectations and requirements not only on a strategic but also on an operative level including the development of study programs and curricula, teaching and pedagogy. According to UNESCO, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) can empower all learners with knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to address the global challenges we are facing, including climate change, environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, poverty and inequality (Unesco 2019). Education should be transformative and allow us to make informed decisions and take individual and collective action to change our societies and care for the planet. The need to solve the common global challenges at a systemic level in a collaborative, equitable, and culturally sensitive way naturally connects ESD and Internationalization of the Curriculum (IoC) (Gregersen-Hermans 2021).
Sustainability in higher education is, however, not a novel theme. It has been effectively implemented in various forms for decades in higher education (see eg. Tilbury, 2011; Glavic, 2020; Unesco, 2017). Ethical sustainability in higher education on the other hand is less explored. Addressing ethics, the process of thinking and reflecting over your own actions, is relevant within sustainability education, since human decision-making operates on levels of emotions, beliefs and values. By using a systems perspective, it is possible to derive a set of ethical principles for sustainability, Dahl argues (2015).
In this paper it is assumed that embedding the ethical component into sustainability education enhances a more profound understanding of the complexity of sustainability, which is crucial for future decision makers (Biedenweg et al., 2013; Unesco, 2017). In this paper a three-fold approach on sustainability in education is presented, including the strategic and operational level of educational organizations, as well as societal.
In the first phase of the three-fold study and presentation six universities´ steering documents in Finland are analyzed. In the second phase teacher perspectives on sustainability education (ESD) are presented. In the third phase artisan entrepreneurs´ and industrial leaders´ views on sustainability are proposed, in order to cover the strategic, operational and societal dimensions regarding sustainability in education. The three-fold aligned approach connects and aligns the strategic perspectives of the universities, with teachers´ pedagogical approaches and the voice of the world of work. In the first study a qualitative content analysis of 6 universities´ steering documents in Finland are analyzed. The sustainability perspectives involved both the traditional dimensions of sustainability, ie economy, culture, social and nature, and the intended capital formation; financial, human, social and natural. A desk study involving qualitative document /content analysis was applied in order to identify concepts and key words in steering documents of the universities. (Hancock, 2020.) The second study explored the teacher approaches through written reflection. Data was collected both from expert teachers and researchers (6) at two universities of applied sciences on the topic regarding educational for sustainability in education. A thematic content analysis was applied in order to gain insight on how teachers view possibilities and hinders in curricula work, teaching and pedagogy in relation to the ethics and sustainability. The topics of reflection: 1. How do you view your university / own role re sustainable development (social, economic, ecological and cultural) in education? 2. How are sustainability and ethical aspects embedded in your curricula/ teaching? 3. Which competences are important for the students to develop re sustainability? 4. What possibilities and hinders do you see in your educational work re sustainability in teaching? 5. What works pedagogically; how to pedagogically enhance students pedagogical sustainability competences and how to evaluate students sustainability and ethical thinking re sustainability? The third study involved interviews with artisan entrepreneurs and industry leaders (5). The interviews were conducted both face-to-face and through means of Teams (online). The interviews were recorded, transcribed and analyzed through a thematic qualitative approach. The questions were: 1. how do you see your role re sustainability? 2. how do you foresee the future re competences and needs re sustainability? 3. how can educational institutions react to sustainability needs? 4. what does ethical sustainability mean in practice at your company? 5. what possibilities and hinders do you see in your field?
The outcomes of the three-fold approach and study present an overview on how science-based and professional universities in Finland express themselves on sustainability through their respective steering documents. Through the document analysis differences between the universities were detected. The results are indicative, reflecting the universities respective strategies and wordings, choices and emphasis. The teacher reflections and world of work voices were expressed and presented for the purpose of gaining further insight into the operational as well as societal level of sustainability challenges and ethics as well as teaching and pedagogy. Their thinking related to future challenges, education, ethics and pedagogy are crucial for the understanding on how to tackle change and wicked problems in a systematic, holistic way. Through the teachers/researchers´ reflection a profound understanding on how sustainability aspects and and ethical approaches can be anchored in education, in respective teaching and pedagogy. A few examples: Students must maintain idealism, and dream of a much better world, pushing the envelope and demanding the businesses and governments to lead the change The students should be given the tools and the responsibility to monitor and showcase their own progress and developments in (self-)awareness, thinking, and action, both individually and collectively. The teacher’s role is to give feedback and provide encouragement and support. The artisan entrepreneurs and industry leaders´ interviews on the other hand revealed thoughts on competences, involving the global perspective and socio-economic viewpoints, in addition to economic facts and future perspectives and views. The three-fold approach aligns the strategic, operational and societal levels together in an attempt to better understand what type of approaches and pedagogical solutions are needed to foster ethics in solving wicked problems of the present and future.
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